Earth's magnetic field shields the planet from charged particles streaming from the sun, keeping it from becoming a barren, Mars-like rock. By relying on insights gleaned from previous work, as well as data collected over nearly four centuries, an international team of scientists has been able to provide a model that accounts for the western drift of the magnetic field on one side of the planet.
The magnetic field that encases the planet is caused by interactions deep inside Earth's core.
The field surrounding the Earth changes over time, with shifts occurring most prominently in low latitudes in the Western Hemisphere. An artist's impression of the magnetic fields of Venus, Earth and Mars interacting with charged particles streaming from the sun.


Understanding how the Earth's core and magnetic field have changed in the past can help scientists to understand its future evolution.
This understanding could also help planetary scientists to learn more about planets other than Earth.
As the flowing iron generates electric currents, the electromagnetic field is constantly changing. For more than 300 years, scientists have recorded a westward-drifting feature in the field that models have been unable to explain. The inner core is solid, while the outer core features flowing liquid iron, which generates currents that in turn lead to magnetic fields.


The fast-moving magnetic patches that occur near the equator drift approximately 10 miles (20 kilometers) per year. Since the magnetic field shields Earth from harmful solar radiation, which could strip the planet of its protective atmosphere, it is important to understand how it changes and will change over time.



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