Geodynamo, Solar Wind, and Magnetopause 3.4 to 3.45 Billion Years Ago

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Science  05 Mar 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5970, pp. 1238-1240
DOI: 10.1126/science.1183445

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Stellar wind standoff by a planetary magnetic field prevents atmospheric erosion and water loss. Although the early Earth retained its water and atmosphere, and thus evolved as a habitable planet, little is known about Earth’s magnetic field strength during that time. We report paleointensity results from single silicate crystals bearing magnetic inclusions that record a geodynamo 3.4 to 3.45 billion years ago. The measured field strength is ~50 to 70% that of the present-day field. When combined with a greater Paleoarchean solar wind pressure, the paleofield strength data suggest steady-state magnetopause standoff distances of ≤5 Earth radii, similar to values observed during recent coronal mass ejection events. The data also suggest lower-latitude aurora and increases in polar cap area, as well as heating, expansion, and volatile loss from the exosphere that would have affected long-term atmospheric composition.

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