Magnetic Mystery

Scientists are struggling to understand new weakening of Earth’s magnetic field in a region that stretches from South America to Africa and is causing technical disturbances in some of the satellites orbiting the planet.

“The new eastern minimum of the South Atlantic Anomaly has appeared over the last decade and in recent years is developing vigorously,” said Jürgen Matzka, from the German Research Center for Geosciences.

The anomaly is allowing the inner Van Allen radiation belt to dip down to an altitude of about 120 miles, sometimes exposing satellites to several minutes of higher-than-usual radiation.

Astronauts have reported disturbances in their eyesight, known as cosmic ray visual phenomena, when passing through the anomaly.

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