Every planet in our solar system, including Earth, has its own magnetic field. Because our planețt core is made up of iron, the entire planet acts like a huge bar magnet, having two poles, with a magnetic field that connects them and also protects us from radiation. A side-effect of our planetțs magnetic field is the northern and southern lights, which can only be witnessed near the poles.
Some reports say that the magnetic north pole started to move quite rapidly, advancing 50 km per year, and it will soon be located over Siberia. Hearing the news, many people started to wonder what will happen to the northern lights.
Earth’s magnetic poles are on the move faster than ever
Recently, Geophysical Research Letters published a study on the matter. Scientists explained how the spectacular event of the northern and southern lights occur. The Earth’s magnetic field extends over the entire planet, and even into interplanetary space, called “magnetosphere.” This helps deflect solar radiation and cosmic rays, protecting us. However, some of them can still transfer into our magnetosphere and be funneled into the poles. The result is the northern and southern lights.
The poles have always been moving, due to the movements of Earth’s iron core. Since the discovery of the magnetic field in 1881, the north pole moved around 2,000 km from the north of Canada to the Arctic Sea. It traveled slowly, at around 9 km per year. Surprisingly, scientists discovered that recently the north pole started moving faster, at around 50 km per year. The south pole is also moving, but relatively slower, at around 10-15 km per year.
Scientists and navigators encountered some issues caused by the wandering of the northern magnetic pole. Computer models are now no longer accurate, making it hard to follow compass-based navigation. Scientists were even forced to update their mapping of the planet’s polar regions.
Aurora Borealis might move along with the Earth’s magnetic poles
Since the Aurora Borealis forms as an oval above the poles, it seems logical that it will move along with them. Currently, the northern lights can be observed from northern Europe, Canada, and the northern US, but this could change as well. Soon, the Aurora should be more visible in Siberia and northern Russia. However, it seems that this may not be the case.
Using data gathered since 1965, scientists created computer models of the Aurora and the magnetic poles. The results determined that the Aurora actually follows the geomagnetic poles of the Earth, which are slightly different.
The magnetic poles are indicated by a compass needle. At first, scientists believed the two magnetic poles of the Earth could be connected by tracing a straight line through the planet’s center, but it turns out this is not true, as the northern and southern magnetic poles are slightly off-center. As a result, they named the two opposite points on the Earth’s surface that connect through its center “the geomagnetic poles”.
Geomagnetic poles also move, but not as much or as fast as the magnetic ones. Since the Aurora Borealis seems to follow the geomagnetic poles, it is not going anywhere, at least for now.