In case you didn’t know, the universe is a terribly hostile place for most lifeforms. At least, it is if you don’t have proper protection. Take our own star, for example. The Sun gives life to everything on Earth, but it is also a violent inferno that shoots off high energy particles that could seriously disrupt Earth’s natural systems. Fortunately, for us, our planet has protection. Ultimately, the Earth is encased in a magnetic field, which is generated by the rotating, liquid iron core…

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Supercomputer model of Earth's magnetic field. Scientists believe that gyrating iron fluid generates Earth's magnetic field, like a giant dynamo. Both yearly and millennial-scale changes in the field have been attributed to the swirling, spinning outer core. Tracking changes in the magnetic field helps researchers create models of how the dynamo may work.

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Earth's magnetic field, which protects the planet from harmful blasts of solar radiation, is much older than scientists had previously thought. This invisible, protective shield likely existed shortly after the planet formed; a finding that could shed light on why Earth is habitable and Mars is not. Earth's magnetic field helped make life on the planet possible. Without our magnetic field, solar winds would strip away the planet's atmosphere and oceans.

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The northern lights are more formally known as auroras, and are caused by interactions between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field. #infographic

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Supercomputer models of Earth's magnetic field. On the left is a normal dipolar magnetic field. On the right is the sort of complicated magnetic field Earth has leading up to a reversal.<br />

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How 4 NASA Satellites Will Study Magnetic Fields of Earth & Sun (Infographic)
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