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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.
Click on image for full size
Original artwork by the Windows to the Universe team.


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. Other phenomena include the donut shaped torus which circulates with moons which are inside the magnetosphere. The moons have wakes and wings associated with them while inside the magnetosphere.

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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The Plasma Sheet

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The Lobes

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The Earth's Plasmasphere

The plasmasphere is a torus-shaped region within the Earth's magnetosphere. The Earth's plasmasphere is made of just that - plasma. It has a very sharp edge called the plasmapause at equatorial distances...more

Radiation Belts

The Earth's radiation belts are one component of the larger and more complex system called the magnetosphere. The radiation belts of the Earth are made up of energetic, electrically charged particles or...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

Magnetospheric Radio Emissions

Besides the beautiful aurora at the north and south poles, the magnetosphere generates lots of noisy radio signals. These signals are the signature of some mechanism which is transporting particles, causing...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