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Theta Auroras are mysterious formations which eluded scientist who tried to find out how they are created. These auroras are formed at higher altitudes in the atmosphere than regular auroras. They resemble the Greek letter theta after which they are named, shaped like an oval crossed by a line.
Auroras are usually formed because of charged particles of the solar wind are absorbed into the atmosphere by Earth’s magnetic field. They are also known as southern and northern lights and can be seen from most of climate latitudes.
Astronomers studied particles present in two lobes of the magnetosphere. In the case of these auroras, the ionized gas is apparently hot when normally it’s exactly the opposite.
According to Robert Fear, from the University of Southampton, scientists didn’t know if the hot plasma was a consequence of direct solar wind in the magnetosphere’s lobes, or if this plasma is connected to the plasma mantle from the side of the Earth where is dark. A theory is that the magnetic effect from the dark side of the Earth caused the hot plasma to be pushed to the lobes with higher latitude.
The locations where auroras usually take place are at latitudes of 65 degrees south or north, but theta auroras occur closer to the poles at higher latitude.
These auroras were observed by NASA’s Image satellite and the Cluster observatory of the European Space Agency ( ESA ). The Image satellite recorded the forming of theta aurora while the plasma that gathered in the southern lobe was caught by the Cluster observatory. The energy driven near the poles was combined into magnetic loops which heated the formation.
The magnetic reconnection is formed when the solar wind is intersected with the Earth’s magnetic field. When the wind, facing south, hits the magnetic field of the Earth which is aligned to the north, the other particles from the solar wind will quickly face south. This process opens a tunnel that leads the solar wind in Earth’s magnetosphere and feeds theta aurora.
European Space Agency’s Cluster project specialist, Philippe Escoubet, said that this was the first time when scientists were able to understand this mysterious phenomenon from which theta auroras are born and it’s all thanks to the Cluster observatory that joined forces with the Image satellite to provide a better understanding of this Earth-Sun connection.
Image Source: Science 2.0