What is the Whistler-mode Chorus?

  • These are waves in space created by fluctuating electric and magnetic fields.
  • The waves have characteristic rising tones — reminiscent of the sounds of chirping birds — and are able to efficiently accelerate electrons.
  • Scientists have long known that solar-energised particles trapped around the planet are sometimes scattered into the earth’s upper atmosphere where they can contribute to beautiful auroral displays.
  • Yet for decades, no one has known exactly what is responsible for hurling these energetic electrons on their way.
  • Recently, two spacecraft found themselves at just the right places at the right time to witness, first hand, both the impulsive electron loss and its cause.
  • New research using data from NASA’s Van Allen Probes Mission and FIREBIRD [Focused Investigations of Relativistic Electron Burst Intensity, Range, and Dynamics] II CubeSat has shown that a common plasma wave in space is likely to be responsible for the impulsive loss of high-energy electrons into the earth’s atmosphere.


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