Earth's magnetic field anomaly over the Atlantic has split in two, now expanding westward: NASA

The anomaly’s 'valley' – the area that had the weakest magnetic field strength – has split into two lobes, the agency has said.

The South Atlantic Anomaly (or SAA) has kept scientists hooked for quite some time now. Now as NASA researchers study the anomaly in detail, they have found that the region is in fact splitting.

The anomaly’s "valley" or the area that had the "minimum field strength", has split into two lobes, said NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in a recent post. This split is likely to generate "additional challenges" for the planning and execution of satellites. They also found that the SAA is expanding westward and slowly weakening in intensity.

“Even though the SAA is slow-moving, it is going through some change in morphology, so it's also important that we keep observing it,” said Terry Sabaka, a geophysicist at Goddard in Maryland.

An illustration of the South Atlantic Anomaly. Image: NASA/YouTube

An illustration of the South Atlantic Anomaly. Image: NASA/YouTube

The South Atlantic anomaly is a wide area ranging on Earth (from Southwest Africa to regions of South America) that acts like a ‘dent’ in the magnetic field of the planet. The charged particles trapped in Earth’s magnetic field “dip closer to the surface than normal” and their radiation adversely affects the working of satellites passing by the region and computers.

According to the space agency, if a satellite is hit by a high-energy proton, it can “short-circuit and cause an event called single event upset or SEU”. This means that a satellite can suffer a momentary glitch or permanent damage. Hence, scientists shut down certain components or instruments while passing through the area.

As NASA explained in a video, the Solar Anomalous and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer or SAMPEX, ESA’s Swarm Earth Explorer and NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer monitor the SAA's position and track its evolution.

Along with the mission, geomagnetic, geophysics and heliophysics research groups of the agency have also created theoretical models of the SAA, to look over the region and predict how it can affect the near earth environment in the future.

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