NASA is actively monitoring a strange anomaly in Earth’s magnetic field: a giant area of lower magnetic intensity in the sky above the planet, stretching between South America and southwest Africa.
This huge development phenomenon, called the South Atlantic anomaly, has intrigued and worried scientists for years, and perhaps most of all NASA researchers. Space agency satellites and spacecraft are particularly sensitive to the weakened strength of the magnetic field within the anomaly and the resulting exposure to charged particles from the Sun.
The South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) – NASA has compared it to a “recess” in the Earth’s magnetic field or some kind of “hole in space” – does not generally affect life on Earth, but the same cannot be said for spacecraft orbits (including the International Space Station). ), which pass directly through the anomaly as they revolve around planets in Earth orbit.
During these encounters, the reduced strength of the magnetic field within the anomaly means that the technological systems on the satellites can experience a short circuit and failure if they are hit by high-energy protons emanating from the Sun.
These random hits can usually only produce low-level failures, but still carry the risk of significant data loss or even permanent damage to key components – threats that oblige satellite operators to routinely shut down spacecraft systems before a spacecraft enters the anomaly zone.
Although many scientists still do not fully understand this anomaly and all the dangers and consequences it can produce, new insights are constantly illuminating this unusual phenomenon.
A study published last month suggests that the phenomenon is not a strange event of recent times, but a recurring magnetic event that could have affected the Earth since 11 million years ago.
If this is the case, it could mean that the South Atlantic anomaly is not the trigger or precursor of the crossing of the magnetic field of the entire planet.
Obviously, huge questions remain, but with so much going on with this huge magnetic oddity, it’s good to know that the most powerful space agency in the world is constantly watching them.