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While Earth's magnetic field protects our planet from most of the permanent flow of particles from the solar wind, rifts or fissures in natural shield are known to occur, enabling the solar wind to penetrate our near-space environment. An ESA satellite cluster called, appropriately, Cluster has provided new insight into the location and duration of these ruptures in the Earth's magnetic shield, and reveals while our atmosphere protects us for the most part, clear effects of these rifts have been detected high in the upper atmosphere and in the region of space around Earth where satellites orbit.
This study reports the observation of fissures on the Sun-facing side of the Earth's magnetic shield – the dayside magnetopause. Fortunately, these fissures don't expose Earth's surface to the solar wind; our atmosphere protects us. But the upper atmosphere is affected.