ESA satellites reveal weakening of Earth’s magnetic field

ESA satellites reveal weakening of Earth’s magnetic field

Data collected by ESA’s Swarm mission indicate that Earth’s magnetic field is weakening.


According to a European Space Agency statement, an ESA mission has revealed recent fluctuations in Earth’s magnetic field. Swarm actually consists of a constellation of three satellites that all launched in Nov. 2013 to study our planet’s magnetic field, which blocks cosmic rays and charged particles that otherwise would make Earth unlivable.

The high-resolution measurements by Swarm were made over the last six months. The resultant model shows that the strength of the magnetic field is declining, most especially over the Western Hemisphere. However, in other areas, such as the southern Indian Ocean, the field has gotten stronger since Jan. of this year. The results also confirm that Earth’s magnetic north is shifting towards Siberia.

Swarm obtains its measurements from a variety of sources, especially the magnetic signature emitted by Earth’s iron-nickel core. Scientists will continue to parse the data to distinguish the signatures of other magnetic sources, including the magnetosphere, ionosphere, crust, oceans and mantle; they hope to gain a deeper understanding of the magnetic field’s diminishment and other Earth processes.

“These initial results demonstrate the excellent performance of Swarm,” said Rune Floberghagen, Swarm Mission Manager at ESA. “With unprecedented resolution, the data also exhibit Swarm’s capability to map fine-scale features of the magnetic field.”

The new findings were announced on June 19 at the Third Swarm Science Meeting held in Copenhagen. The Swarm mission is led by the National Space Institute of Denmark (DTU Space) in conjunction with 10 other institutions in Europe and Canada. Models based upon Swarm’s data are constructed at the Swarm Satellite Constellation Application and Research Facility. The swarm satellites’ primary scientific tool, the Vector Field Magnetometer, was fashioned at the Technical University of Denmark. Swarm is meant to continue the missions of Denmark’s Ørsted satellite and Germany’s Champ mission.

“I’m extremely happy to see that Swarm has materialized,” said Kristian Pedersen, Director of DTU Space.

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