A team of scientists at the University of New Hampshire has discovered a breaking-wave pattern over the magnetic sphere of Earth. The image released by NASA shows the waves are similar to the ocean waves that any surfer would crave. The researchers said the presence of such waves might disrupt telecommunications by interfering with space weather, resulting in auroras.
Surfer's waves form when fast-moving fluid travels over slow-moving fluid. These waves are also known as the Kelvin-Helmholtz waves. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said Kelvin-Helmholtz waves are found in clouds, oceans and the sun. The waves also have been found at the edge of the magnetic field, resulting from interaction between the magnetic field and charged particles from the sun.
The researchers previously thought the presence of these waves on the magnetosphere was a rare phenomenon. But Shiva Kavosi, co-author of the latest study published in the journal Nature Communications, said the phenomenon is quite common.
"It turns out they can appear under any conditions and are much more prevalent than we thought," Kavosi said in a statement. "They're present 20 percent of the time."
The research team used data from two NASA projects to make a note of the wave patterns and measure the intensity of the solar winds at the time of the wave formation. The researchers found that the magnetic wave formation did not depend on the intensity of solar winds; rather, they could form under a variety of conditions.
The researchers said further understanding the behavior of the magnetic field can help scientists find a way to stop the disruption of technology, including power grids and telecommunications.