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Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2012 nominations – in pictures

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Supercomputer model of Earth's magnetic field. Scientists believe that gyrating iron fluid generates Earth's magnetic field, like a giant dynamo. Both yearly and millennial-scale changes in the field have been attributed to the swirling, spinning outer core. Tracking changes in the magnetic field helps researchers create models of how the dynamo may work.

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'Magnetic' Discovery May Reveal Why Earth Supports Life and Mars Doesn't

Earth's magnetic field, which protects the planet from harmful blasts of solar radiation, is much older than scientists had previously thought. This invisible, protective shield likely existed shortly after the planet formed; a finding that could shed light on why Earth is habitable and Mars is not. Earth's magnetic field helped make life on the planet possible. Without our magnetic field, solar winds would strip away the planet's atmosphere and oceans.

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This image is part of the sequence Environment: Earth layers. Credit: Gary Hincks

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How To Make A Compass For Kids

A great way to teach kids about the Earth's magnetic field and how magnets work.

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In case you didn’t know, the universe is a terribly hostile place for most lifeforms. At least, it is if you don’t have proper protection. Take our own star, for example. The Sun gives life to everything on Earth, but it is also a violent inferno that shoots off high energy particles that could seriously disrupt Earth’s natural systems. Fortunately, for us, our planet has protection. Ultimately, the Earth is encased in a magnetic field, which is generated by the rotating, liquid iron core at…

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The Northern Lights are more formally known as auroras, and are caused by interactions between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field.

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The Sun as you've never seen it: Nasa reveals stunning footage from new satellite

Ring of fire: Known as a 'prominence eruption', this is a loop of gas heated to an extremely high temperature. Twisted magnetic fields on the Sun's surface cause the gas to be shaped like this. This image was captured by the satellite on March 30

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