Studying the Effects of Magnetic Storms on the Earth's Magnetosphere


Nicholas Biggs

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

USU Student Showcase

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Faculty Mentor

Jan Sojika


Magnetometers are instruments designed to measure data of the Earth's magnetic field at a particular location. The magnetic field, or the magnetic effects surrounding the Earth, can vary based on location on the Earth's surface and the appearance of magnetic storms. The storms, mostly caused by gusts in the solar winds, generate electric current in the Earth's ionosphere and the changes in these currents generate a changing magnetic field. These variations in the magnetic field interact with the Earth's main field and cause the changes that we can subsequently measure. The changes in the magnetic field can have an adverse effect on things exposed to repeated magnetic storms, such as pipelines, which can become corroded, or power lines having a current induced, causing power outages and other problems.

We currently have a magnetometer up at USU's Bear Lake Observatory that has been collecting high time resolution mid-latitude data since 2001. This data has helped us to analyze how the magnetic field is affected on both a daily basis and for special events, such as magnetic storms. This examination has helped us to see the effect of solar winds for the Bear Lake region and compare it to the effects felt in other locations. We have also been able to observe the solar cycle (or an 11 year period starting with a minimum of solar activity, reaching a maximum, and then ending with the next minimum) in action. From the data we have collected, spanning about one solar cycle from 2001-present day, we have been able to recognize that the solar minimum, back in 2008, was one of the quietest in modern times.

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