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The oxygen leaks from the atmosphere into space

The escape takes place during the interaction between the solar wind and the Earth's atmosphere, known to us as the aurora borealis phenomenon, but don't worry, the amounts are negligible at the moment. When the sun is warmer the situation will change

The gases coming out of the aurora borealis. Figure - European Space Agency ESA
The gases coming out of the aurora borealis. Figure - European Space Agency ESA

Oxygen is constantly leaking from the Earth's atmosphere into space. Measurements carried out by satellites during the XNUMXs and XNUMXs showed that the oxygen ions escaping from the Earth were detected when they reached a higher altitude than expected and flew at a higher speed than expected. This means that some type of acceleration mechanism is involved in the process.

Now new work on data collected by the European Space Agency's Cluster satellites has shown that it is the Earth's own magnetic field that accelerates the oxygen to escape velocity, but there is nothing to worry about. Compared to the reservoir of this life-supporting gas on Earth, the amount escaping is negligible. However, in the distant future, when the sun begins to heat up in old age, the balance may change and the rates of oxygen escaping from the atmosphere will begin to be significant.

From the data collected between 2001 and 2003, cluster scientists gathered information about beams of charged oxygen atoms - known as ions, flowing from the polar regions of the Earth into space. Cluster also measured the strength and direction of the magnetic flux wherever the rays were present.

Hans Nilsson, from the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, and head of the team of space scientists who analyzed the data says that his group discovered that the oxygen is accelerated due to the change in the direction of the magnetic field "It is very similar to the effect of the bull-hit game."

The need for all four cluster satellites to work together is essential to the analysis because they give astronomers a way to measure the strength and direction of the magnetic field over large areas. "Cluster allows us to measure the gradient of the magnetic field and see the direction of change over time," said Nilsson.

Before the space age, scientists believed that the Earth's magnetic field was filled only with particles from the solar wind - the constant stream of particles escaping from the sun. Thus this field protects the Earth's atmosphere from direct contact with the solar wind.

"We are beginning to understand how many interactions can occur between the solar wind and the atmosphere," says Nilsson. "Energetic particles from the solar wind can be channeled along the magnetic field lines, and when they hit the Earth's atmosphere they create the aurora borealis. Those collisions also create the oxygen ions that have enough energy to accelerate out of the atmosphere and into Earth's magnetic environment.

Cluster's data were measured above the poles using satellites moving at altitudes of 30 and 64 kilometers. The data helps scientists understand what might happen in the future. "We can only predict future changes if we understand the mechanism involved in the process," says Nilsson.

For information on the European Space Agency website

Previous news on this topic on the knowledge site

7 תגובות

  1. No. Ben-Ner:
    Yes. There is a northern aurora (Aurora borealis), and there is a southern aurora (Aurora australis).

  2. to Judah,

    The upper layer of the atmosphere (ionosphere) contains ions of different types at different heights and is very complex (and changes according to the seasons, whether it is day or night, etc.). The upper layers contain mainly oxygen ions - this is an empirical fact. This may explain why the satellites detect oxygen ions (rather than nitrogen ions) escaping from the atmosphere.

    I agree that there is no reason to worry about the so-called emptying of the atmosphere. But knowledge is power. It is important to know the processes in the atmosphere, even those that seem negligible to us. Ozone is also a negligible molecule: it is found mainly at an altitude of 20 to 40 km, and even there, it is in a concentration of less than 1 in 100000 (!). And yet it turns out that the process of its depletion is very important.

    happy New Year!

  3. For those who know and can answer:
    Does the aurora borealis appear at both poles or only at one pole (the north?)? After all (as I understand it) what is known as the "solar wind" is a flow of positively charged hydrogen and helium ions. Therefore, I assume that there is no symmetry between the two magnetic poles of KDA, in the interaction between the "solar wind" and the magnetic field of KDA.

  4. It seems to me that the same glow affects the nitrogen atoms as well, so that what is supposed to happen is that the air will be a little thinner.
    In addition, within a million years we can produce as much oxygen as we want in atomic reactors, so why worry?
    Good Day
    Sabdarmish Yehuda

  5. Itzik is right, only 4 million years is much more frightening than 4 billion years.
    Funny, isn't it?! Why be alarmed by 4 million years? Personally, we certainly won't get there. In the event that the human race (or whatever it will be evolutionarily at that time) survives until then, there is a good chance that we will already be scattered throughout the solar system and far beyond. Either we will have the ability to compensate for the phenomenon or we will no longer care so much about a single planet. Basically, Itzik, you're just scared. It is more likely that we will not survive even 4,000 years or maybe even 400 years (anyone bet on less, maybe 40 years?!). It is highly likely that this will be a form of civilizational suicide.

  6. By the time of old age, we mean another 4 billion years.
    For a moment I was scared, I thought another 4 million years.

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