For the first time, after decades of speculation, the existence of plasma tubes in the Earth's atmosphere has been confirmed.
The discovery was made by Cleo Loi, a 23-year old student of astrophysics at the University of Sydney and lead author of the paper documenting the phenomenon.
The breakthrough happened when she focused on the signals being captured by the Murchison Widefield Array, a desert installation of 128 antenna tiles in Australia.
By separating the western and eastern sides and triangulating their output in the way the left and right eyes work together to create one unified image, she was able to create a visual representation of the tubes in the magnetic field.
%shareLinks-quote="For over 60 years, scientists believed these structures existed but by imaging them for the first time, we've provided visual evidence that they are really there" type="quote" author="Cleo Loi " authordesc="ARC Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) "%
The team was even able to calculate their distance above ground—approximately 373 miles—in addition to their slanted trajectory and the amount of gap between them.
At first, senior scientists were highly skeptical of her findings, but she eventually made the case for their validity.
Plasma tubes are created as the sun interacts with the earth's magnetic field.
They are thought to be the cause of the occasional signal interference experienced by navigation devices.