This is how the magnetic portals look on the data gathered by NASA's Polar spacecraft:
NASA reports, Jack Scudder, a researcher at the University of Iowa has found "hidden portals on Earth's magnetic field [that] open and close dozens of times each day." Scudder says that these portals "create an uninterrupted path leading from our own planet to the sun's atmosphere 93 million miles away."
They are called X points or electron diffusion regions, where they are located "a few tens of thousands of kilometers from Earth". The portals are created through a process of magnetic reconnection in which lines of magnetic force from both celestial bodies mingle and criss-cross through space. Sounds too science fiction?
The portals are invisible, unstable and elusive, and they open and close without any warning. When they open, they are capable of transporting energetic particles at high speed from the Sun's atmosphere to Earth's causing geomagnetic storms. Scudder says that there's a way to locate them.
He uses data by NASA's THEMIS spacecraft and the ESA's Cluster probes, following crucial clues found in the data from NASA's Polar spacecraft, which studied Earth's magnetosphere in the late 1990s. With the Polar data, we found five simple combinations of magnetic field and energetic particle measurements that tell us when we've come across an X point or an electron diffusion region.
NASA is getting a spacecraft ready in their Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission. A whole squadron of them: four ships that will be deployed around Earth and "surround the portals to observe how they work." The spacecraft will launch in 2014. [NASA]