Explanation of the formation of sparkling auroral beads strung on the night sky

(ORDO NEWS) — Astronomers using several telescopes have observed a special type of glow in the night sky, in which the sources are small “beads” in the sky, resembling a necklace of precious stones.

Analyzing the results of the observations will help astronomers gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms behind the formation of these amazing light shows.

Known as “auroral beads,” these light sources appear in clusters in the sky, while the more traditional auroras look more like ribbons of light.

A group of 13 spacecraft, including the European Space Agency’s Cluster mission, observed this process, which leads to the formation of auroral beads on the day side of the Earth, facing the Sun.

This study provides an opportunity to better understand the formation of such a unique kind of luminescence of the earth’s atmosphere, the authors explained.

Auroras and other forms of airglow are caused by electrical storms or charged particles emitted by the Sun. Observations made on November 6, 2018 revealed that vortices at the edge of the Earth’s magnetosphere – the magnetic field that surrounds our planet and protects it from solar radiation – made it possible for some of the charged solar particles to tunnel to the Earth’s surface, causing the streams observed in the sky as “auroral beads,” according to a statement from the European Space Agency.

These spacecraft were located on the night side of the Earth, near the planet’s magnetopause, a thin layer at the outer edge of the magnetosphere.

While some of these spacecraft observed the vortices, others recorded streams of charged particles moving towards the Earth.

The joint analysis of the results of these observations allowed the researchers to study the entire process of auroral bead formation from beginning to end for the first time, according to the announcement.

These vortices, which look like small whirlpools and are used to quickly track solar particles, are formed when the solar wind blows through the magnetopause, similar to the wind that mixes the clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere and the water in the oceans on its surface.

In turn, the solar wind electrons spiral down towards the magnetosphere and eventually reach the Earth’s upper atmosphere, where the electrons interact with hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen.

This leads to the glow of the molecules and the formation of round auroral beads that appear to be strung on the night sky, the authors found.


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