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Lithium masquerading as the solar wind.


In reanalyzing measurements of lithium ions released in 1984 from an Earth-orbiting satellite, scientists have found that the ions apparently distorted or perturbed the structure of the planet's magnetic field in a way that was earlier attributed to density changes in the solar wind.

Researchers originally had hoped to use the ions as "tracers" of Earth's magnetic field lines after the charged particles were ejected from a satellite called the Active Magnetosphere Particle Tracer Experiment. They failed, however, to detect the ions.

Earth's magnetic field lines often change with fluctuations in the pressure of the solar wind, and they changed during the lithium release. However, the solar wind's density was very stable" at the time of the ion release, according to a report in the December 1990 GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS by Thomas A. Potemra of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., Hermann Luhr of the Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology in Braunschweig, Germany, and Wolfgang Baumjohann of the Max Planck Institute in Munich, Germany

The researchers thus conclude that the increased density of the lithium ion "cloud" distorted the field lines. Potemra says the distorted field was "the first positive indication" inside Earth's magnetosphere of the experimental ion release, which occurred outside the magnetosphere.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 19, 1991
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