Couldn't find element LayerAd

Error finding content

IMF: Interplanetary Magnetic Field - Windows to the Universe

Shop Windows to the Universe

Check out the fun Earth science related bumper stickers in our online store! Express yourself!
The IMF is represented by the blue arcs in the picture above. This picture shows the spiral nature of the IMF.
Click on image for full size
NASA

IMF

The Sun acts like it has a big magnet in the middle of it. We call this the Sun's magnetic field.

The Sun's magnetic field has a fancier name, the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF). This just means that the Sun's magnetic field is so huge that it passes all of the planets. Can you imagine a bar magnet that is so huge and powerful that it reaches all the way out to Pluto?! The Sun's magnetic field does hit a boundary way past Pluto called the heliopause.

The magnetic field of the Sun is carried by the solar wind which comes out from the Sun. The solar wind and magnetic field are twisted into a spiral by the Sun's rotation.

Last modified June 3, 2003 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Cool It! is the new card game from the Union of Concerned Scientists that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change—and how policy and technology decisions made today will matter. Cool It! is available in our online store.

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 Magnetic Field

The force of magnetism causes material to point along the direction the magnetic force points. Here's another picture of how this works. This picture shows where the magnetic poles of the Earth are to...more

The Spiral of the IMF

The solar wind is formed as the Sun's top layer blows off into space. It carries magnetic fields still attached to the Sun. Streams appear to flow into space as if they are spiraling out from the Sun,...more

The comet's interaction with interplanetary space, part 1

When evaporation begins, the gas is propelled from the nucleus at supersonic speed (depicted by arrows in the figure). Because of the low gravity in space, this means that the molecules from the nucleus...more

Magnetic Fields Near Planets

A magnetometer is an instrument for measuring magnetic fields. Many spacecraft carry magnetometers to measure the magnetic fields around planets. When a spacecraft makes those measurements, what do the...more

Ground-based Observations of Space Weather

Spacecraft help us look at space weather. We can also make some space weather measurements from the surface of Earth. Instruments on the ground are cheaper and are easier to fix than instruments on spacecraft....more

The Sun's Magnetic Field

Text for this level has not been written yet. Please see the "Intermediate" text for this page if you want to learn about this topic. To get to the "Intermediate" text, click on the blue "Intermediate"...more

Sun's Effect on Earth

The Sun is very important to the Earth. The Sun warms our planet, heating the surface, the oceans and the atmosphere. The Sun also gives us light. We definitely couldn't live on Earth without the Sun!...more

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