Earth's magnetic field, which protects the planet from harmful blasts of solar radiation, is much older than scientists had previously thought. This invisible, protective shield likely existed shortly after the planet formed; a finding that could shed light on why Earth is habitable and Mars is not. Earth's magnetic field helped make life on the planet possible. Without our magnetic field, solar winds would strip away the planet's atmosphere and oceans.

Earth's magnetic field, which protects the planet from harmful blasts of solar radiation, is much older than scientists had previously thought. This invisible, protective shield likely existed shortly after the planet formed; a finding that could shed light on why Earth is habitable and Mars is not. Earth's magnetic field helped make life on the planet possible. Without our magnetic field, solar winds would strip away the planet's atmosphere and oceans.

Supercomputer model of Earth's magnetic field. Scientists believe that gyrating iron fluid generates Earth's magnetic field, like a giant dynamo. Both yearly and millennial-scale changes in the field have been attributed to the swirling, spinning outer core. Tracking changes in the magnetic field helps researchers create models of how the dynamo may work.

Supercomputer model of Earth's magnetic field. Scientists believe that gyrating iron fluid generates Earth's magnetic field, like a giant dynamo. Both yearly and millennial-scale changes in the field have been attributed to the swirling, spinning outer core. Tracking changes in the magnetic field helps researchers create models of how the dynamo may work.

An amazing northern lights photo from space showing the ring around the earth where the aurora is most prominent.

An amazing northern lights photo from space showing the ring around the earth where the aurora is most prominent.

The earth's magnetic field. Almost 800,000 years ago, the poles flipped. Our magnetic field has lost 10% of it's strength over the last 150 years.

The earth's magnetic field. Almost 800,000 years ago, the poles flipped. Our magnetic field has lost 10% of it's strength over the last 150 years.

Supercomputer models of Earth's magnetic field. On the left is a normal dipolar magnetic field. On the right is the sort of complicated magnetic field Earth has leading up to a reversal.

Supercomputer models of Earth's magnetic field. On the left is a normal dipolar magnetic field. On the right is the sort of complicated magnetic field Earth has leading up to a reversal.

The northern lights are more formally known as auroras, and are caused by interactions between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field. #infographic

The northern lights are more formally known as auroras, and are caused by interactions between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field. #infographic

Earth's magnetic field reversed extremely rapidly soon after modern humans first arrived in Europe, completely flip-flopping in less than a thousand years, new research suggests.  These findings, detailed Oct. 15 in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters,could shed light on how and why magnetic field reversals happen, and how they leave Earth vulnerable to solar and space radiation, the study scientists said. Earth's magnetic field is generated by the roiling of its outer liquid…

Earth's magnetic field reversed extremely rapidly soon after modern humans first arrived in Europe, completely flip-flopping in less than a thousand years, new research suggests. These findings, detailed Oct. 15 in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters,could shed light on how and why magnetic field reversals happen, and how they leave Earth vulnerable to solar and space radiation, the study scientists said. Earth's magnetic field is generated by the roiling of its outer liquid…

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