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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 an image of the Earth's magnetosphere.
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Original artwork by the Windows to the Universe team.

Magnetosphere

A magnetosphere has many parts, such as the bow shock, magnetosheath, magnetotail, plasmasheet, lobes, plasmasphere, radiation belts and many electric currents. It is composed of charged particles and magnetic flux.

These particles are responsible for many wonderful natural phenomena such as the aurora and natural radio emissions such as lion roars and whistler waves.

The particles move and circulate about the magnetosphere and even generate storms. The magnetosphere changes constantly, even flipping its orientation every few thousand years.

Last modified December 3, 2008 by Randy Russell.

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Magnetosheath

The magnetosheath is the region of space between the bow shock and the magnetopause. ...more

The Plasma Sheet

The plasma sheet is just that, a sheet of plasma that extends down the magnetotail dividing the two lobes of the Earth's magnetic field. This outer plasma is hotter than the plasma in the plasmasphere,...more

The Lobes

The lobes of the magnetosphere are a vast region of the magnetotail between the magnetopause and the central plasma sheet. The lobes have opposite magnetic direction....more

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...more

Radiation Belts

The Earth's radiation belts are just one part of the system called the magnetosphere. The radiation belts of the Earth are made up of electrons, protons and heavier atomic ions. These particles get trapped...more

The Magnetic Field

The force of magnetism causes material to point along the direction the magnetic force points. As shown in the diagram to the left, the force of magnetism is illustrated by lines, which represent the force....more

Magnetospheric Radio Emissions

Besides the beautiful aurora at the north and south poles, the magnetosphere generates lots of noisy radio signals. These signals tell us that something is happening within the magnetosphere, such as particles...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