Scientists find evidence of lunar tide effects in Earth’s plasmasphere

People gather to watch the Qiantang River tidal bore on the bank of the Qiantang River in Yanguan Town of Haining City, east China's Zhejiang Province, Sept. 11, 2014. (Xinhua/Han Chuanhao)

BEIJING, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) — A team of Chinese scientists and their overseas counterparts have for the first time discovered evidence of a lunar tide-induced signal in the Earth’s plasmasphere, the inner region of the magnetosphere, which is filled with cold plasma.

The study, jointly conducted by scientists from Shandong University, the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and other institutes, was recently published in the journal Nature Physics.

According to scientists, effects caused by lunar tides were reported in the Earth’s crust, oceans, neutral gas-dominated atmosphere and near-ground geomagnetic field. However, whether a lunar tide effect existed in the plasma-dominated regions had not been explored yet.

Tourists watch the full moon at the Mingsha Mountain scenic area in Dunhuang, northwest China’s Gansu Province, Sept. 10, 2022. The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on Sept. 10 this year. (Photo by Zhang Xiaoliang/Xinhua)

Xiao Chao, the paper’s co-first author, a researcher at Shandong University, said they made the new findings by analysing data from more than 10 satellites over the past four decades.

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They found that the lunar tide-induced signal in the Earth’s plasmasphere possesses distinct diurnal and monthly periodicities, which are different from the semidiurnal and semimonthly variations dominant in the previously observed lunar tide effects in other regions.

The new findings expand our understanding of Earth-Moon interactions in a direction that had not been previously considered, said Xiao.

They also provide important clues for future investigations in broader regions and two-body celestial systems, including other planetary systems in our solar system and beyond, the researcher added.