The ESA's SWARM trio of satellites are up-and-running. Here's a sweet animation put together using its first set of high-resolution scans showing the most recent changes in the magnetic field that protects our planet.

This timelapse shows changes from January to June 2014. Our magnetic field is in a permanent state of flux; magnetic north crawls around and the polarity flips every few hundred thousand years or so. What's more, the strength of the magnetic field is constantly changing — and it's currently showing signs of weakening.

June 2014 magnetic field via ESA/SWARM


The magnetic field, which protects us from cosmic radiation and charged particles, is particularly weak over the South Atlantic Ocean, which is known as the South Atlantic Anomaly. And in fact, this weak area has indirectly caused some temporary satellite "hiccups" called Single Event Upsets.

[ ESA ]