June 4, 2015

Astronomers Discover Giant Plasma Tubes Surrounding Planet Earth

By creatively using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), a radio telescope located in the Western Australian desert to see in 3D, astronomers have found the first visual evidence that the Earth is surrounded by strangely shaped plasma structures, including plasma tubes.

The MWA consists of 128 antenna 'tiles' spread over an area roughly three by three kilometers that work together as one instrument - but by separating the signals from tiles in the east from the ones in the west, the astronomers gave the MWA the power to see in 3D.

“For over 60 years, scientists believed these structures existed but by imaging them for the first time, we’ve provided visual evidence that they are really there,” said Cleo Loi of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) at the University of Sydney.

Ms Loi is the lead author on this research, undertaken as part of her award-winning undergraduate thesis and published in Geophysical Research Letters today. In collaboration with international colleagues, she identified the structures.

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