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Charged Particle Motion in Earth's Magnetosphere

Regions of Earth's Magnetosphere

When dayside reconnection opens magnetic field lines at the magnetopause, hot, subsonic solar wind plasma in the magnetosheath gains direct access to the magnetosphere, producing the dayside cusp and plasma mantle. As open field lines are dragged into the magnetotail, they relinquish some of their hot solar wind plasma and fill with cool ionospheric plasma, producing a low density mixed plasma in the magnetotail lobes.

Click on the terms along the left side ("Bow Shock", "Magnetopause", etc.) to highlight those features of the magnetosphere in the image.

Animation courtesy the COMET and HAO programs at UCAR/NCAR.

Upon magnetotail reconnection, earthward-bound closed field lines compress the plasma forming the plasma sheet. Particle energies in the plasma sheet increase through compression as the field lines approach the Earth, and the energetic particles begin to drift around the Earth (ions to the west and electrons to the east), forming the outer radiation belt and extending the plasma sheet to the dayside magnetosphere. The inner radiation belt, produced by cosmic rays, lies inside the plasmasphere, which rotates with the Earth's atmosphere, and does not take part in large-scale magnetospheric convection.

Last modified May 13, 2005 by Randy Russell.

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