Huge Holes Found in Earth's Magnetic Shield

The Earth is in for a wild geomagnetic ride
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2008 2:40 AM CST
This image provided by NASA shows a new sunspot, upper right, which emerged in September after many weeks of a blank sun with no sunspots and very few sunspots this entire year.   (AP Photo/NASA/ESA)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Scientists have discovered two large and unexpected holes in the magnetic field that protects the Earth from solar winds, reports The leaks won't pose any risk to health, but increased disruption to satellites and electrical systems can be expected when the cycle of solar storms reaches its next peak four years from now, experts say. The have no idea why the "leaks" occurred.

The holes in the magentosphere are much bigger than anything previously thought to exist, and scientists say the discovery has completely changed their understanding of how the bubble of magnetism works and how solar particles enter the atmosphere.  "What we observed was the breach in the levee," one physicist said. "This has taken us completely by surprise." (Read more magnetic field stories.)