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Movie courtesy of NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center - Conceptual Image Lab.

Geomagnetic Substorm Triggered by CME from Sun

This movie opens with a close-up view of the Sun. The solar wind streams outward into interplanetary space. Our view shifts to Earth which is surrounded by the planet's magnetosphere (magnetic field lines are shown in blue). A coronal mass ejection (CME) from the Sun arrives from the left, buffeting and warping Earth's magnetosphere. Some solar magnetic field lines (shown in orange) link up with Earth's magnetic field.

As we zoom in on Earth, we see that some loops in Earth's magnetic field on the side away from the Sun get compressed and pinched off. This process, called magnetic reconnection, releases bursts of particles which stream towards Earth along magnetic field lines. The particles in these "geomagnetic substorms" collide with gas molecules in Earth's upper atmosphere. The collisions release energy, which we see as the glowing lights of the aurora (Southern and Northern Lights).

Right-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac) on one of the following links to download a copy of this video in either the QuickTime (62 MB) or MPEG (16.7 MB) format.

Last modified February 11, 2010 by Randy Russell.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA