Auroras - Living with a Star
Premieres Tuesday February 11, 2003

In a scientific adventure, we travel with NASA researchers Art Poland and Rich Vondrak from Arlington National Cemetery - final resting place of 2 of America's boldest explorers of the Arctic, Robert Peary and Matthew Henson - to as close to the North Magnetic Pole as it's possible to get before the Arctic winter closes in. We use a simple compass, and "dip circles" like those carried by the earliest explorers, to show how Earth's magnetic field varies between mid-latitudes (like Washington, DC) and far north in Nunavut, Canada. Our trip involves "borrowing" a dip circle - a kind of vertical compass - from Larry Newitt in Ottawa, and then a bumpy, two hour flight aboard a small Twin Otter to the abandoned Isachsen weather station. After blizzards and concerns about safety, we land and show that, as predicted, close to the Magnetic Pole, a magnetized needle points upwards at approximately 90 degrees to the surface. As Art and Rich throw their arms upwards in scientific triumph, we dissolve to original animations from NASA Goddard which allow us to travel in our imagination up along one of those magnetic field lines, and out into space.

NASA researchers Art Poland and Rich Vondrak during their expedition to the
North Magnetic Pole; in Arlington, VA; Resolute, Nunavut, and at Cape Isachsen, close to the NMP.

Earth's magnetosphere reacts to a Sun-Earth event: NASA

We see how the ever-present solar wind stretches Earth's magnetic field outwards on our planet's night-side, like an eddy behind a rock in a fast-flowing stream. What force generates the solar wind?

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