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Surprise Discovery In Earth’s Upper Atmosphere

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    Last Updated: September 12, 2009

    elyons sends word out of UCLA of a completely unexpected discovery in the physics of the Sun-Earth interaction — a previously unknown basic mode of energy transfer from the solar wind to the Earth’s magnetosphere. “‘It’s like something else is heating the atmosphere besides the sun. This discovery is like finding it got hotter when the sun went down,’ said Larry Lyons, UCLA professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences. ‘We all have thought for our entire careers — I learned it as a graduate student — that this energy transfer rate is primarily controlled by the direction of the interplanetary magnetic field. The closer to southward-pointing the magnetic field is, the stronger the energy transfer rate is, and the stronger the magnetic field is in that direction. [It turns out that] if it is both southward and big, the energy transfer rate is even bigger.’” The researchers have two papers on the discovery coming out in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

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