Earth might seem like a cozy place to live, and that's mostly true, but only due to a very thin protective barrier generated by our planet's magnetic field. Without this natural shield, we'd be under constant assault by extreme space weather like coronal mass ejections.
But now scientists believe we may have another way to protect ourselves should our natural shield break down, an artificial force field-like boundary that we accidentally, inadvertently, created, reports Newsweek.
It turns out that our communications using very low frequency radio signals, such when radio telescopes are transmitted from the ground and are used to communicate with submarines, have been leaking out into space and interacting with electrons and ions there. This interaction has resulted in a sort of VFL (Very Low Frequency) "bubble" that completely enshrouds our planet.
“A number of experiments and observations have figured out that, under the right conditions, radio communications signals in the VLF frequency range can in fact affect the properties of the high-energy radiation environment around the Earth,” Phil Erickson, one of the scientists involved, said in a statement.
Normally, man-made radio bubbles might seem like bad news, a kind of cosmic pollution. But these artificial bubbles actually have been secretly working in our favor, adding another layer of protection from dangerous solar storms. The result is a "Star Trek"-like invisible shield that could potentially be manipulated to be turned up or down depending on the level of protection we might need.
A major reason why scientists constantly monitor the sun's activity is because of the dangerous conditions generated in the aftermath of solar flares, when plasma and magnetic field from the solar corona can be spewed in our direction. If these ejections are strong enough, they have the potential to knock out communication satellites and even shutdown our power grids.
The idea that our radio communications have the ability to protect us from these violent events is quite remarkable. Researchers are even looking into whether directed use of this protective layer might be used to remove excess radiation from the space surrounding Earth.
Technology based on this discovery might even one day be used to emit protective shields around spacecraft, to give them protection when flying outside of Earth's field. "Star Trek"-like indeed.