What effect does earth's Magnetic Field have on electromagnetic radiation?

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Offline jeffreyquach

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Hello :)

As the title states, I've recently considered the effect magnetic fields have on electromagnetic radiation. In primary and junior school, we get told time and time again the earth's magnetic field protects us.

My question is, how does it do this?

From recent studies in physics, I've found out that higher wavelengths (gamma, x-rays) are absorbed by the earth's ionosphere. If earth's atmosphere is absorbing these rays, what's earth's magnetic field doing?

Thank you :)


Offline alancalverd

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The magnetic field traps charged particles (alpha, beta, proton radiation) and can deflect neutrons (which have a magnetic moment but no charge) but has no effect on electromagnetic radiation (x and gamma radiation).

The stopping power for EM radiation depends on the density of the absorber so it is the troposphere rather than the ionosphere that protects us.   
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Offline evan_au

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The Earth's magnetosphere provides some protection for Earth's atmosphere from the solar wind. The magnetosphere deflects the solar wind around the earth, reducing the rate that it blows away the top of our atmosphere.

Some astronomers have suggested that the weak magnetic field on Mars accelerated the loss of its atmosphere (not helped by its lighter gravity).

Earth's magnetic field flips every so often, and during one of these flips, the magnetosphere will not extend so far into space, and so we will have reduced protection. Apart from seeing more auroras in temperate climates, and rendering today's compasses obsolete, it's not clear how much of an effect it will have at ground level.