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With Explore the Planets, investigate the planets, their moons, and understand the processes that shape them. By G. Jeffrey Taylor, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
This is a drawing of the Earth's magnetosphere. The plasma sheet is highlighted in yellow.
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The Plasma Sheet

The plasma sheet is simply that, a sheet of plasma that extends down the magnetotail dividing the two lobes of the Earth's magnetic field. The particle density here is about 0.5 cm-3 for both electrons and protons. The average particle energies are 0.6 keV for the electrons and 5.0 keV for the protons.

This outer plasma is hotter than the plasma in the plasmasphere, but is considered low energy when compared to the particles in the Van Allen radiation belts. The plasma sheet is several Earth radii thick and has an inner edge at about 7 Earth radii at local midnight. Its thickness and position do vary.

Sometimes the plasma sheet is also called the current sheet because one of the main currents which circle the magnetosphere cuts through the center of the magnetotail.

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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