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Charged Particle Motion in Earth's Magnetosphere

Associations

Green and red aurora

The next time you happen across the mysterious and beautiful dancing lights of the aurora, you might think of the magnetosphere, source of energetic particles that create the auroral light and generator of electric currents that heat the polar ionosphere.

Regions of Earth's magnetosphere

Or your mind may turn to the Sun and solar wind, whence nearly all magnetospheric particles and energy derive.

The solar wind

Or perhaps you will see in your mindís eye a giant fountain of air rising from the polar atmosphere and settling in the tropics, high above the ground.

Auroral-driven circulation in the thermosphere

You might even wonder whether this auroral storm has disrupted communications and navigation systems, or endangered astronauts in space.

Space weather impacts on human society

But wherever your mind may wander, borne by this dazzling display, may you never lose the same sense of mystery that our ancestors felt when beholding this amazing and beautiful silent fire in the polar sky.

Red aurora

Last modified September 2, 2005 by Randy Russell.

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Charged Particle Motion in Earth's Magnetosphere

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Altocumulus

Altocumulus clouds are part of the Middle Cloud group (2000-7000m up). They are grayish-white with one part of the cloud darker than the other. Altocumulus clouds usually form in groups and are about...more

Altostratus

Altostratus belong to the Middle Cloud group (2000-7000m up). An altostratus cloud usually covers the whole sky and has a gray or blue-gray appearance. The sun or moon may shine through an altostratus...more

Cirrocumulus

Cirrocumulus clouds belong to the High Cloud group (5000-13000m). They are small rounded puffs that usually appear in long rows. Cirrocumulus are usually white, but sometimes appear gray. Cirrocumulus...more

Cirrostratus

Cirrostratus clouds belong to the High Cloud (5000-13000m) group. They are sheetlike thin clouds that usually cover the entire sky. The sun or moon can shine through cirrostratus clouds . Sometimes, the...more

Cirrus

Cirrus clouds are the most common of the High Cloud (5000-13000m) group. They are composed entirely of ice and consist of long, thin, wispy streamers. They are commonly known as "mare's tails" because...more

Cumulonimbus

Cumulonimbus clouds belong to the Clouds with Vertical Growth group. They are generally known as thunderstorm clouds. A cumulonimbus cloud can grow up to 10km high. At this height, high winds will flatten...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