(INTELLIHUB) — For eons portals have been portrayed in writings, Sci-Fi films and TV shows such as Star Trek and others and are typically perceived as doors to the unknown so to speak or windows into the future. But imagine if portals really existed; what we as humans might learn from them.

Interestingly enough they are real, says NASA, and a researcher from the University of Iowa has discovered a way to find them — they are called “X-points” or “electron diffusion regions,” University of Iowa’s plasma physicist Jack Scudder said.

“They’re places where the magnetic field of Earth connects to the magnetic field of the Sun, creating an uninterrupted path leading from our own planet to the sun’s atmosphere 93 million miles away.”

NASA reports:

Observations by NASA’s THEMIS spacecraft and Europe’s Cluster probes suggest that these magnetic portals open and close dozens of times each day. They’re typically located a few tens of thousands of kilometers from Earth where the geomagnetic field meets the onrushing solar wind. Most portals are small and short-lived; others are yawning, vast, and sustained. Tons of energetic particles can flow through the openings, heating Earth’s upper atmosphere, sparking geomagnetic storms, and igniting bright polar auroras.

A little over a year ago NASA launched a mission called the Magnetospheric Multiscale or MMS for short, which is dedicated to observing the phenomenon to see exactly how these portals works and what they are all about. However, NASA says the portals are extremely hard to find and even “elusive,” which makes the MMS mission complicated. Although Scudder maintains there are “signposts” that alert us to where these portals may form.

According to NASA:

x points
Data from NASA’s Polar spacecraft, circa 1998, provided crucial clues to finding magnetic X-points. — Image: NASA

To learn how to pinpoint these events, Scudder looked at data from a space probe that orbited Earth more than 10 years ago.

“In the late 1990s, NASA’s Polar spacecraft spent years in Earth’s magnetosphere,” explains Scudder, “and it encountered many X-points during its mission.”

Because Polar carried sensors similar to those of MMS, Scudder decided to see how an X-point looked to Polar. “Using Polar data, we have found five simple combinations of magnetic field and energetic particle measurements that tell us when we’ve come across an X-point or an electron diffusion region. A single spacecraft, properly instrumented, can make these measurements.”

This means that single member of the MMS constellation using the diagnostics can find a portal and alert other members of the constellation. Mission planners long thought that MMS might have to spend a year or so learning to find portals before it could study them. Scudder’s work short cuts the process, allowing MMS to get to work without delay.

Maybe Gene Roddenberry had it right after all.

Shepard Ambellas is an activist, journalist, filmmaker, film producer, radio talk show host and the founder and editor-in-chief of Intellihub. Established in 2013, Intellihub.com is ranked in the upper 1% traffic tier on the World Wide Web. Read more from Shep’s World.