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Electromagnetic Ion Cyclotron Waves

  • 19 Apr 2023
  • 4 min read

Why in News?

Scientists have identified Electromagnetic Ion Cyclotron (EMIC) waves, a form of plasma waves in the Indian Antarctic station, Maitri.

  • These waves play an important role in precipitation of killer electrons (electrons having speed close to speed of light, which form the radiation belt of planet Earth), which are hazardous to space-borne technology/instruments.
  • The study can help understand the impact of energetic particles in the radiation belts on the low orbiting satellites.

What are Electromagnetic Ion Cyclotron Waves?

  • The EMIC waves are the discreet electromagnetic emissions observed in the Earth's magnetosphere.
  • These waves are generated in the equatorial latitudes and propagate along magnetic field lines to its footprint in the high latitude ionosphere.
  • Their signatures can be recorded in both space as well as ground-based magnetometers.


  • Magnetosphere is the cavity in which the Earth lies and stays protected from the wrath of the Sun.
  • It is formed by the interaction between Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind, which is a continuous stream of charged particles, mainly electrons and protons, flowing from the Sun.
    • Earth's magnetic field is generated by the motion of molten iron in its outer core.


  • A magnetometer is a scientific instrument used to measure the strength and direction of magnetic fields.
  • It can be used to study the Earth's magnetic field, as well as magnetic fields of other celestial bodies, such as planets, moons, stars, and galaxies.

What are Plasma Waves?

  • About:
    • Plasma waves are a type of electromagnetic wave that propagates through plasma, which is a state of matter.
      • Plasma is formed when a gas is heated to high temperatures or subjected to strong electric fields, causing its atoms to become ionised, meaning they lose or gain electrons and become charged particles.
    • More than 99% of the matter in the visible universe consists of plasma.
      • Our Sun, solar wind, the interplanetary medium, near-Earth region, magnetosphere, and the upper part of our atmosphere all consist of plasma.
  • Application:
    • Plasma waves have significant applications in various fields, including astrophysics, space science, plasma physics, and communication technology.
      • For example: they are involved in the generation of auroras
    • The study of plasma waves also provides us with information on regions inaccessible to us, transport mass and energy across different regions, how they interact with charged particles and control the overall dynamics of the Earth’s magnetosphere.

What are the Other States of Matter?

  • About:
    • States of matter are the different physical forms that matter can exist in, based on their unique properties such as shape, volume, and particle arrangement.
    • The three most commonly known states of matter are solid, liquid, and gas.
      • Additionally, there are two less common states of matter known as plasma and Bose-Einstein condensate.
  • Bose-Einstein Condensate: It is a state of matter that occurs at very low temperatures, close to absolute zero. It was first predicted by Albert Einstein and Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose in the 1920s.

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year Question (PYQ)

Q. Discuss the work of ‘Bose-Einstein Statistics’ done by Prof. Satyendra Nath Bose and show how it revolutionised the field of Physics. (2018)

Source: PIB

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