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This image is a summary of the main features of the plasmasphere: the plasmapause, main body of the plasmasphere, dusk-bulge region and detached plasma regions outside the main body of the plasmasphere
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The Earth's Plasmasphere

The plasmasphere is a donut-shaped region inside the Earth's magnetosphere. It is basically an extension of the ionosphere, or the topmost part of the Earth's atmosphere. The magnetic field lines of the Earth capture plasma that flows up from the ionosphere, so that there is a plasma build-up. Scientists call that plasma build-up the plasmasphere.

The plasmasphere is composed mostly of hydrogen ions. The base of the plasmasphere, which is the same as the top of the ionosphere, is about 1000 kilometers from the Earth's surface. The temperature in the plasmasphere is generally between 6000K and 35,100K or VERY hot compared to temperatures we are used to!

The plasmasphere has a very sharp edge called the plasmapause. The plasmapause was discovered in 1963.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF