Plasmasphere

Plasmasphere

Fig. 3.16 . The Earth is surrounded by a layer of plasma, located in an inner part of the magnetosphere and just outside the ionosphere, which is at the top of the Earth’s atmosphere. This plasmasphere is created by energetic sunlight ionizing molecules and atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, and it is contained by the Earth’s magnetic field. Plasma is an electrically neutral collection of electrons, protons and other ions. These images were obtained on 24 May 2000 in ultraviolet light from the IMAGE spacecraft. The Earth is at the center of the images, and the Sun is to the upper left. The view is toward Earth’s north pole. The emission of the plasmasphere is brightest on the side pointing toward the Sun. The oval shape of the Earth’s northern aurora is detected inside the arc of the plasmasphere. (Courtesy of NASA/EUV IMAGE science team.)

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University