Shop Windows to the Universe

Dig into Montana Before History: 11K Years of Hunter-Gatherers in the Rockies and Plains by D. H. MacDonald, Ph.D. See our online store book collection.

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.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games section of our online store includes a climate change card game and the Traveling Nitrogen game!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

The Earth's Magnetosphere

The Earth has a magnetic field with north and south poles. The magnetic field of the Earth is enclosed in a region surrounding the Earth called the magnetosphere. As the Earth rotates, its hot core generates...more

The Magnetic Field

The force of magnetism causes material to point along the direction the magnetic force points. This property implies that the force of magnetism has a direction. As shown in the diagram to the left, the...more

Particle Radiation

One main type of radiation, particle radiation, is the result of subatomic particles hurtling at tremendous speeds. Protons, cosmic rays, and alpha and beta particles are some of the most common types...more

The Thermosphere

The thermosphere is a layer of Earth's atmosphere. The thermosphere is directly above the mesosphere and below the exosphere. It extends from about 90 km (56 miles) to between 500 and 1,000 km (311 to...more

The Discovery of the Radiation Belts

The belts of trapped radiation above the Earth's atmosphere, but within the magnetosphere, were first detected by James Van Allen in 1958. Therefore these belts are also known as Van Allen Belts. When...more

Earth's Magnetic Poles

Earth has a magnetic field. If you imagine a gigantic bar magnet inside of Earth, you'll have a pretty good idea what Earth's magnetic field is shaped like. Of course, Earth DOESN'T have a giant bar magnet...more

Earth's North Magnetic Pole

Earth has a global magnetic field that is approximately, though not exactly, a dipole field (like a bar magnet) with a north pole and a south pole. Earth's North Magnetic Pole (NMP) is not in the same...more

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