Magnetosphere

Magnetosphere

. The Earth’s magnetic field carves out a hollow in the solar wind, creating a protective cavity, called the magnetosphere. A bow shock forms at about ten Earth radii on the sunlit side of our planet. Its location is highly variable since it is pushed in and out by the gusty solar wind. The magnetopause marks the outer boundary of the magnetosphere, at the place where the solar wind takes control of the motions of charged particles. The solar wind is deflected around the Earth, pulling the terrestrial magnetic field into a long magnetotail on the night side. Plasma in the solar wind is deflected at the bow shock (left), flows along the magnetopause into the magnetic tail (right), and is then injected back toward the Earth and Sun within the plasma sheet (center). The Earth, its auroras, atmosphere and ionosphere, and the two Van Allen radiation belts all lie within this magnetic cocoon.

Copyright 2010, Professor Kenneth R. Lang, Tufts University