For life to exist on our planet, the magnetic field of the Earth is crucial. It protects us from the worst impacts of the Sun’s rays in addition to enabling compass navigation and showing the Aurora Borealis far up north.
We only need a tiny bit of sunlight; too much would have detrimental effects. We are fortunate to have a magnetic field. But there is a small issue: A hole in our magnetic field has been created, which ScienceAlert refers to as a “pothole in space.”
The South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) is a phenomenon, not a physical dent. There is a part of the planet’s atmosphere between South America and Africa where our magnetic field is weaker than it is elsewhere.
The vessel we have placed into orbit has a vulnerability, but it is not life-threatening—it would need to be far more serious to endanger the planet’s surface.
Satellites and other spacecraft go through our magnetic field as they circle the Earth. They continue to gain from its defense as a result.
Scientists Alarmed By Space Pothole
Without that, there are a variety of potential technological issues that could arise due to excessive exposure to high energy particles from the Sun, ranging from minor bugs to data loss and significant damage to crucial components.
It’s a big enough problem that people who watch over spacecraft that travel through the SAA frequently just shut them off before they get there.
In order to understand how it acts, what’s causing it, and whether it’s an indication that things are about to get much worse, NASA has been closely monitoring this dent for a number of years at this point.
An enormous subsurface reservoir of extremely dense rock known as the African Large Low Shear Velocity Province appears to be the root source of the SAA.