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Known as Birkeland currents, they carry up to 1 TW of electric power to the upper atmosphere - about a third of the total power consumption of the US in a year.
They're also responsible for the aurora borealis and aurora australis that light up the poles of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
More recently, scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA) have sent a trio of Swarm satellites into the space between Earth's ionosphere and magnetosphere to investigate the Birkeland currents.
Initially, these satellites detected incredibly large electrical fields, which are generated in the ionosphere where upwards and downwards Birkeland currents are interacting above the planet like so: [photo of electric current planes intersecting earth towards the poles]
Now the satellite trio has discovered what these electrical fields are driving - extreme supersonic plasma jets that have been dubbed 'Birkeland current boundary flows'.
"Using data from the Swarm satellites' electric field instruments, we discovered that these strong electric fields drive supersonic plasma jets," says one of the team, Bill Archer from the University of Calgary.
"They can drive the ionosphere to temperatures approaching 10,000°C and change its chemical composition. They also cause the ionosphere to flow upwards to higher altitudes, where additional energisation can lead to loss of atmospheric material to space."
Weirdly enough, thanks to some other recent observations from the Swam satellites, we now know that similar systems are at play both in Earth's upper atmosphere and deep inside its liquid outer core.
Back in December, the ESA team announced that their Swam satellites had detected an accelerating river of molten iron some 3,000 km (1,864 miles) below the surface of Earth, under Alaska and Siberia.
I don't know why ghosties like me so much anyway, but this is the hotbed of activity.. The place Im moving in, hopefully, as everything in my life seems to be "fall through the cracks somehow" mode
originally posted by: TEOTWAWKIAIFF
Sorry, but sitting here messing with my computer (date and time does not stay set... symptoms of the CMOS battery being dead), and watching the X-files. I tried booting but nothing happened. I hit reset a couple times and sat down for a sip of beer.
I heard a buzz!... like a phone on mute! Very real. In a place where nobody can be. (As I type this, I heard it again!!)
It is almost outside my apartment. I would say, “bee trapped in plastic” ‘cept too cold for bees!
Like Reverbs, I will not directly address them!!