El campo magnético protege a nuestra atmósfera

El paso de una ráfaga de viento solar durante una alineación planetaria ha permitido comparar cómo afectan estos fenómenos a las atmósferas de la Tierra y Marte. El resultado es evidente: el campo magnético de nuestro planeta es fundamental para mantener a la atmósfera en su sitio.

FUENTE | Agencia Europea del Espacio (ESA)

Esta alineación de la Tierra y Marte tuvo lugar el 6 de enero de 2008. Las misiones europeas Clúster y Mars Express midieron cuánto oxígeno perdían las atmósferas terrestre y marciana, respectivamente, al paso de una ráfaga de viento solar. Al comparar los resultados, se pudo comprobar hasta qué punto el campo magnético protege a nuestra atmósfera.

Los científicos observaron que si bien la presión de radiación solar aumentaba una cantidad similar en ambos planetas, la atmósfera de Marte perdía diez veces más oxígeno que la terrestre.

Esta diferencia tendría consecuencias catastróficas a lo largo de miles de millones de años, y podría explicar, al menos en parte, porqué Marte presenta una atmósfera tan tenue hoy en día.

Este estudio demuestra la eficacia del campo magnético terrestre para desviar al viento solar y proteger a nuestra atmósfera.

“El efecto protector del campo magnético es fácil de comprender y de simular matemáticamente, por lo que se ha convertido en una teoría ampliamente aceptada”, explica Yong Wei, del Instituto Max-Planck para la Investigación del Sistema Solar, en Alemania, y director de este estudio.

Al poder estudiar la atmósfera de estos dos planetas mientras estaban siendo azotados por la misma ráfaga de viento solar, han podido comprobar que la hipótesis era cierta.

El equipo de investigadores espera ampliar su estudio con los datos recogidos por la sonda Venus Express de la ESA, que también está equipada con un sensor capaz de medir las pérdidas de la atmósfera de Venus.

El estudio de Venus será fundamental para aportar un nuevo punto de vista a su investigación ya que, al igual que Marte, no cuenta con un campo magnético significativo, tiene un tamaño comparable al de la Tierra y sin embargo, presenta la atmósfera más densa de los tres planetas.

Estos datos ayudarán a poner en contexto los resultados obtenidos en la Tierra y en Marte.

Se acerca una serie de alineaciones planetarias que serán muy propicias para continuar con estos estudios.

“Durante los próximos meses tendrá lugar una buena alineación entre el Sol, la Tierra, Venus y Marte, que aprovecharemos para coordinar una campaña de observaciones utilizando los satélites Mars Express y Venus Express de la ESA y el observatorio solar STEREO de la NASA”, explica Olivier Witasse, Científico del Proyecto Mars Express para la ESA.

Clúster seguirá jugando un papel fundamental en estos estudios, ya que es la única misión capaz de realizar este tipo de análisis en el entorno de la Tierra.

Por otra parte, los científicos están muy interesados en ver cómo afectará el incremento de la actividad solar, asociado al ciclo solar actual, a la pérdida de partículas atmosféricas en los tres planetas.

“La familia europea de misiones en el Sistema Solar, con su capacidad única de observación, jugará un papel fundamental en el estudio de estos fenómenos a medida que se aproxima el máximo de actividad solar”, concluye Matt Taylor, Científico del Proyecto Clúster para la ESA

Tomado de madridmasd.org

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