You those waves that you sometimes see in clouds? They look like the kind of waves surfers would love to surf. Or, they just look like rolling hills. Well, now they can be seen in space.
Who noticed the resemblance?
A paper was published back in May with Nature magazine, covering the idea of how solar wind plasma interacts with the magnetosphere, and how that can cause what is known as the Kelvin-Helmholtz waves. If you did not know, the magnetosphere is what helps protect us from solar winds and the like.
When solar plasma is released from the Sun and heads toward Earth, the magnetosphere is there as a defender, and dampens the wind around the planet, also forcing it to go around Earth without it affecting us too much. This time, however, it creates a rolling hill effect. Or, a wave effect, if you prefer.
Previous Knowledge of the rolling hills
What little is known about the waves was that they existed at the brink of the magnetosphere, but only show once in a blue moon on the scope. However, with this new surge, they reevaluated their thinking and estimated that the waves are more frequent about twenty percent of the time.
Also, the waves can come up pretty much at any time and in under any circumstances. The conclusions were taken from examining data from NASA’s ACE and THEMIS where the team on the study saw the rolling hills and measured them.
However there are other suggestions for the cause of the waves. Another study that was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research fairly recently on the 26th of June suggested that the rolling hills are a result of a plume of plasma was extended toward the magnetosphere by the plasmasphere. This plume of plasma would make the magnetosphere thicker in a sense and thereby create waves, as other researchers have seen.
But whatever the theories researchers have about what exactly is causing the rolling hills effect, all parties agreed on one thing. Further research will be needed to understand space atmosphere and other potential threats, etc.