There’s no denying that physics is one of the most complex sciences to learn. But you’ll be surprised that physics is everywhere. Well, maybe not extremely surprising, but physics can be fascinating to somebody who hasn’t gotten exposed to its vast ideas and concepts.
A particularly fascinating aspect of physics is how magnets work. Many metaphors are associated with magnets like “chick magnet” or “you’re a magnet for trouble,” but do you know what magnets are for? First, let’s deep dive into the fascinating facts about magnets, and later, talk about the applications of these scientific marvels in outer space.
How do Magnets Work?
To know why magnets can function in outer space, you’ll need to get a clear understanding of how magnets work in the first place.
Magnets have strong magnetism, which is the force that attracts or repels objects due to a motion of electric charges. To put it simply, magnets can stick to other objects that are magnetized. But, contrary to popular belief, not all metal objects are magnets. Instead, the entity must first get magnetized to attract and repel things.
To understand more about magnets, we must first understand the fundamental concepts of electromagnetism. All things in this universe are made up of atoms. An atom is composed of different charges and parts like the proton, neutrons, and electrons.
Protons have positive charges, while electrons have negative charges. A neutron has neutral costs, hence the name. The central part of an atom that relates to magnets is the electron because it produces an electrical current that makes a single atom act like a tiny magnet.
Imagine a lot of these atoms have solid electrical currents in their electrons, then they can become highly magnetized. However, most compounds have equal amounts of electrons that spin in opposite directions, making them magnetic. This is why it’s false to conclude that metals are magnetic.
Substances like iron and cobalt, both metal alloys, are considered magnetic because the electrons move in the exact directions but are still not considered magnets because they cannot attract and repel objects independently.
How do objects become magnetized?
To make an object get magnetized, another magnetic thing must first get close to a magnet’s magnetic field. A magnetic field is an area that has a strong magnetic force.
All magnets have two opposite poles called the north pole and the south pole. Opposite poles attract two objects while similar poles repel.
To make something a magnet, you can rub a north induced pole of atoms like iron to another magnet. This lines up an electric current in the same direction that creates a magnetic field. This piece of iron can now be a magnet because of the strong magnetic field generated due to the exposure of two opposite poles.
The same can be said when rubbing like poles together, but the effects repel instead.
Is the Earth a magnet?
Yes. Our earth is a giant magnet ball, but scientists can’t tell why that is. However, some speculate that it’s because of the hot molten metal found on the outer core that produces an electrical current. This current, as explained above, creates a vast magnetic field that makes our planet magnetic.
You also might have heard of the North Pole and the South Pole when associating with the coldest regions of the globe. The icy climate has nothing to do with magnetism, but the magnetic component of the earth has a lot to do with these poles.
These magnetic poles move because of the earth’s components moving and melting rocks. These movements lead to the formation of magma that flows in the earth’s crust and becomes lava. As lava cools down, the rocks that form from this process are highly magnetic. Because the earth’s composition is mostly the core, mantle, and crust, these rocks are ubiquitous everywhere that may have contributed to the earth’s magnetic character.
But again, scientists are still very unfamiliar with the mysteries of the magnetic force, which is why it is considered a mystery science because it hasn’t been completely understood and discovered to what purpose it serves in the bigger picture.
Do magnets work in space?
In science, conducting experiments is a must to answer questions with absolute certainty. For example, because we have answers to how magnets work and the characteristics to make any object that is magnetic into magnets, we also learned that the earth is a magnet in and of itself, so do magnets apply in outer space; as well?
All facts lead to this fundamental question, and you have to wonder if magnets also have applications in space.
The simple answer to this question is yes. Magnets can work in space because no rules and barriers suggest exclusivity to one place. If you look at the Earth itself, we can hypothesize that magnets can be planetary. So, Saturn and Jupiter can be magnets as well.
To reiterate, magnets manifest when an electrical current exists. So to know that if magnets appear in our universe outside the planet, an electric current must be involved to create a magnetic field.
And where do electric currents come from? Electrons, of course. And what did we learn from our little atomic lesson? The universe is composed of atoms. So, when an atom exists, an electrical current exists, and therefore magnets can manifest.
If that is the case, let’s expand this concept to our galaxy, the Milky Way. Comparing the Earth’s core where cooled lava becomes magnetic, the Milky Way’s billions of objects composed of matter contribute to the flow of electrons because it’s theorized that the universe is in constant movement.
But this creates a relatively weaker magnet that you can’t tangibly feel. While the earth has two opposite poles acting as the drivers of its magnetic features, the galaxy, on the other hand, has separate magnetic poles that spin in all sorts of directions. While a magnet can exist in a vacuum, the space and direction, unfortunately, don’t, which makes the effects of magnetism almost non-existent.
3 Cuurent Applications of Magnets in Space
Because the world is slowly considering space exploration as the next big step of humanity, research on magnets has been really attractive since it’s a science that’s still very vague. Nevertheless, the applications of magnets in space have been entertained, and there are a few technological advancements used in space stations today.
1. Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer
AMS or Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is designed to study the vast existence of dark matter and antimatter. The magnet component of the AMS is the device itself. It acts as a solid and permanent magnet that attracts particles for research to delve into more profound knowledge in black holes and dying stars. These concepts are slowly getting uncovered as magnets become so popular.
2. Magnet Motor
Magnetic motors in space stations are an alternative power source to electricity, which can be more efficient for heavy-duty work. Using magnetic energy as opposed to other forms is safer and more reliable in preventing outages and malfunctions. It’s more efficient for space-related programs and technology.
3. Magnetic Torquers
In space, some satellites revolve around our planet to direct signals for the internet and other connections that help us communicate to many different people from different places in the world. The way these navigate is a combination of a magnetic connection that directs its movement and the aid of the earth’s atmosphere. Magnets help satellites run their course while providing us with the fantastic services of the internet and cellular technology.
There are many other applications of magnets in aerospace facilities like missiles, flow regulators, and equipment inside the shuttles themselves, and there will be a lot more coming in the future.
NASA’s discovery of strange magnetic activities in space
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has discovered a strange phenomenon concerning magnetic activities in space. It appears that there are silent magnetic explosions that stemmed from different sources in the universe that created a chain reaction that reached our planet, and in turn, projected this effect onto other adjacent parts of the solar system.
This process is what they call a magnetic reconnection, where a transfer of energy is felt from many objects, irrespective of the force or energy itself. Though nobody knows for sure of the after-effects it may have caused, the existence of magnets in space is further cemented because of this phenomenon.
It will only be a matter of time until magnets become a staple for space equipment and technology. Something is fascinating about magnets in the sense that not a single expert in science can define its complete elements and purpose for existing.
As technology advances, you can start seeing the implementations of magnets in everyday technology. Though it may be popular as a decorative fridge panel for photos and magnetic trinkets, magnets can be way more than that.
Like the planet Earth, magnets exist in space and have applications that extensive space programs have built to yield faster and more efficient results in discovering the universe. Who knows? This could be the gateway in unlocking the secrets our known universe tries to cover.