NASA intern discovers aurora never seen before

Hyperaxion Jan 24, 2020

The electromagnetic phenomenon is the result of a compression of the magnetosphere, the outer layer of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Jennifer Briggs, a physics student at Pepperdine University in the United States, discovered an astronomical phenomenon in the sky while interning at NASA in 2019. The young woman observed an entirely new interaction on Earth: some disturbance in the electromagnetic field of our planet resulted in the production of an aurora never seen before.

The event was short-lived, but was recorded by Briggs. It occurred in the Earth’s magnetosphere layer, which is present in all celestial bodies with a magnetic field and is located outside the atmosphere.

The Earth’s magnetosphere was severely compressed

NASA intern makes an unprecedented discovery: an aurora never seen before
NASA intern discovers aurora never seen before by experts. (Photo: Fred Sigernes / Kjell Henriksen Observatory, Longyearbyen, Norway / Joy Ng).

To get more information, Briggs used data from the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) spacecraft. According to the intern’s analysis, the Earth’s magnetosphere was severely compressed – and that was precisely what caused the formation of the aurora.

According to Briggs, the magnetosphere had compressed 25 thousand kilometers in just 1 minute and 45 seconds. “You can imagine someone drilling into the Earth’s magnetic field. There was massive, but localized compression,” Briggs said in a statement.

The first example of its kind

This temporary phenomenon is believed to be the first example of a “foreshock generated localized compression”. Earth’s magnetosphere is the space that surrounds the Earth beyond the layers of the atmosphere between 700 and 65,000 km from the surface. This region is turbulent, and these turbulences can result in peculiar events like this. “The sky camera acted like a magic eye, allowing us to observe the state of the magnetic field,” explained the intern.


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