Something about space weather

The main objective of the SQUID project is to develop and test a relatively cheap plataform for the study of the earth electric and magnetic field. We have all seen a lot of times the typical image of the earth as a magnetic dipole (the earth with a magnet inside, with the magnetic field lines comming from the south pole to the north pole). However, the sun is constantly releasing plasma (called solar wind) which has its own magnetic field. When the solar wind arrives to the earth, it deforms the eartsh magnetic field giving it a tear shape.

The solar activity is very variable, and the intensity of the solar wind is changing constantly. The sun has a 11 year cycle, in which its activity changes from low activity (right now we are on a “quiet” period of the sun) to high activity. A higher activity involves a higher number of violent phenomena happening on sun, such as solar flares or CME’s (Coronal Mass Ejection), which produce a sudden and violent increase on the solar wind speed and plasma density.

When this “high density” plasma reaches the earth magnetosphere, it deforms it, inducing a so called magnetic substorm. These phenomena are extremely complex and there is a lot of research happening on the scientific comunnity to investigate and explain how they work.

One of the most known phenomena induced by the magnetic substorm are the auroras. When the high density plasma reaches the magnetosphere, it flattens the magnetotail, in such a way that magnetic field lines with opposite directions touch each other, inducing a phenomena called magnetic reconnection. When this happens a big ammount of plasma is ejected from the reconnection point towards the north and south poles at an extremely high speed, and when this plasma “falls” into the atmosphere auroral activity occurs.

Auroral activity occurs at altitudes above 100km, and those altitudes are “easily” reachable with sounding rockets, making squid be a very useful platform to provide useful scientific data to learn more about our magnetic field.


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