The thermosphere, the layer of rarefied gases floating high above the Earth has collapsed. Don’t worry, this won’t set off a 2012 style end of the world scenario (according to NASA scientists) and surprisingly it was not the result of global warming (as far as we know). The extremely bizarre event is estimated to be the result of a solar minimum. And this isn’t the first time something of this nature happened. But something is happening scientists cannot explain.
Prior to the space age, the thermosphere made a similar contraction 43 years ago, and in 2008 a new solar minimum began that would follow through to 2009. But the thermosphere collapsed three times lower than was estimated at NASA due to mere solar minimums.
Extreme Ultraviolet Radiation is what the thermosphere collects as these rays hit Earth. If the Sun is more active, these EUVs are emitted and collected by the thermosphere which expands as it collects more of the energy. But with the new solar minimum, scientists are finding the thermosphere in a serious reflexive period of diminishing. What does this mean? It means the area around Earth is significantly cooler than it would normally be. The sun has not been this inactive since prior to this century. And as sunspots and solar flares rarely make an appearance these days, we are waiting for a solar upswing to carry us from our current solar minimum.
And one scientist has discovered a way of tracking the activity of the thermosphere and the massive change that has recently taken place. By watching the decay of satellites, a scientist from Earth’s Naval Research Lab named John Emmert revealed in an interview with space.com how he discovered a way to chart the progress of this collapse. As scientists look for answers they are vexed by the fact that all the known factors do not account for the incredible amount of activity displayed by the collapse.
And carbon dioxide, thus far a prime suspect in the mysterious incident has been unable to account for the incredible difference observed. CO2 levels should have accounted for 10% of the total amount of activity that should have taken place and this leaves an additional 90% to either other factors or left unaccounted for entirely. Scientists have been doing their best to make the phenomenon accessible to the public, but the process they describe is incredibly complex any way you slice it. To make a long analysis short, 60% of the losses to Earth’s thermosphere are unexplainable at the moment.
Are there forces at work here that, like cosmic radiation prior to Robert Millikan‘s paper on the phenomenon in 1927? Like Millikan are there scientists out there who are yet to fully document all the forces in the universe that have a major effect on the Earth? And will we discover these forces in time to prepare, should this cosmic radiation have a longterm lasting effect on Earth life? Only time will tell as scientists scramble to explain what is happening to our planet as it dances about the cosmos.