New study resolves years-long scientific debateOctober 21st, 2010 - 5:09 pm ICT by ANI
London, Oct 21 (ANI): A new research has found a final link between electrons trapped in space and the glow of light from the upper atmosphere known as the diffuse aurora - the study will finally settle a debate that has been ongoing for years.
It will help people understand ’space weather’, with benefits for the satellite, power grid and aviation industries, and how space storms affect the Earth’s atmosphere from the top down.
Since the 1970s scientists have debated whether very low frequency (VLF) radio waves could scatter the trapped electrons into the atmosphere.
Researchers from University of California (UCLA) and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have found that VLF waves known as ‘chorus’ are responsible; so-called since the signals detected by ground-based recording equipment sound like the bird’s dawn chorus when played back through a loud speaker.
Through detailed analysis of satellite data the authors were able to calculate the effects on the trapped electrons and identify which radio waves were causing the scattering.
“The breakthrough came when we realised that the electrons being lost from space to the Earth’s atmosphere were leaving a signature, effectively telling a story about how they were being scattered. We could then analyse our satellite data on the two types of VLF waves and by running calculations on them - including the rate at which the electrons were being lost to the Earth’s atmosphere - we could clearly see that chorus waves were the cause of the scattering,” said professor Richard Thorne, lead author from UCLA.
Professor Richard Horne from British Antarctic Survey said that, “Our finding is an important one because it will help scientists to understand how the diffuse aurora leads to changes in the chemistry of the Earth’s upper atmosphere, including effects on ozone at high altitude, which may affect temperature right through the atmosphere.
“We are also including the VLF waves into computer models to help predict ’space weather’ which not only affects satellites and power grids, but also the accuracy of GPS navigation and high frequency radio communications with aircraft on polar routes,” he added.
The research is published in the journal Nature. (ANI)
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