NASA has discovered a ‘dent’ in Earth’s magnetic field that could spell disaster for the thousands of satellites in space.


The dent, called the South Atlantic Anomaly, was discovered over South America and the southern Atlantic Ocean, and could allow dangerous particle radiation from the Sun to reach our planet.

Worryingly, this particle radiation could knock out onboard computers on satellites, according to NASA.

As it stands, the dent doesn’t appear to create an impacts on daily life on Earth.

However, recent observations indicate that the dent is weakening and splitting, which could cause problems in the future.

The South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) developed as a result in changes to the motion of Earth’s core, according to NASA.

It explained: “These dynamical processes in the core ripple outward to the magnetic field surrounding the planet, generating the SAA and other features in the near-Earth environment – including the tilt and drift of the magnetic poles, which are moving over time.”

While the dent arises from process inside Earth, it could have effects far beyond our planet.

Low-Earth orbit satellites travelling through the SAA could be hit with dangerous particle radiation, which could short-circuit the satellite.

NASA said: “This can cause the satellite’s function to glitch temporarily or can cause permanent damage if a key component is hit.”

To prepare for future threats to satellites, NASA regularly monitors the state of the magnetic field, using data from the European Space Agency’s Swarm constellation, as well as ground measurements.

Terry Sabaka, a geophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said: “Even though the SAA is slow-moving, it is going through some change in morphology, so it’s also important that we keep observing it by having continued missions. Because that’s what helps us make models and predictions.”

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