ESA’s Cluster spacecraft finds “cloud plasma” reaching 1/4 way to moon

Artist's view of Cluster 2 spacecraft.  Source: ESA
Artist’s view of Cluster 2 spacecraft. Source: ESA

National Geographic published the findings by space experts using European Space Agencies Cluster 2 spacecraft that a, “Giant veil of cold plasma,” has been, “Discovered high above earth.”  The article, written by Dave Mosher defines “cold plasma”:

“Earth generates cold plasma—slow-moving charged particles—at the edge of space, where sunlight strips electrons from gas atoms, leaving only their positively charged cores, or nuclei.”

Mosher writes that the effects of “cold plasma” on earth’s atmosphere are still not known, but that it could effect “incoming spaceweather” because, solar storms barrage Earth with similar but high-speed charged particles.”

Mosher calls “Cold plasma a space weather ‘elephant,'” paraphrasing a statement by space scientist Mats Andre.

It turns out, there was a, “Trick to finding cold plasma,” he writes.

“André and his colleague Chris Cully suspected the plasma could be out there, but they knew the positive charge of spacecraft wasn’t helping any search efforts.”

“Similar to the way cold plasma is created, sunlight strips electrons from spacecraft materials, making their hulls positively charged. Like two matching magnetic poles, a spacecraft would simply repulse any cold plasma around it.”

“..cold plasma makes up between 50 and 70 percent of all charged particles within the farther reaches of Earth’s magnetic field.”

But the ESA Cluster 2 spacecraft shows these “hard to detect” particles as much as 60,000 miles above Earth.   For more information about the ESA’s Cluster 2, click here.

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