This drawing shows the difference between a dipole and a magnetosphere.
Click on image for full size
Image from the AGU Educator's Slide set. Image copyright 1997 by the American Geophysical Union. Further electronic distribution is not allowed.
A Planetary Magnetosphere
A planetary magnetosphere is different from an ordinary dipole. The force of the solar wind, coming from the sun stretches the dipole and creates a nose region in the front of the magnetosphere (facing the sun), and a tail region in the back called a magnetotail.
If it weren't for the solar wind, a planet's magnetic field would extend forever. But because the solar wind presses upon a planet's magnetic field, and encloses it, the magnetic field is forced to stay within a "cavity" called the magnetosphere.
This magnetosphere naturally has an edge and that edge is called the magnetopause.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, ranging from evolution
, classroom research
, and the need for science and math literacy
You might also be interested in:
The lobes of the magnetosphere are a huge area between the magnetopause and the plasma sheet....more
The magnetosheath is the space between the bow shock and the magnetopause. ...more
Neptune has three small plasmaspheres which are greatly affected by Neptune's rings. Particles enter the plasmasphere from Neptune's atmosphere as well as the magnetotail. Particles might leave the plasmasphere...more
A magnetosphere has many parts, such as the bow shock, magnetosheath, magnetotail, plasmasheet, lobes, plasmasphere, radiation belts and many electric currents. Particles in the magnetosphere cause aurora...more
AU stands for Astronomical Units. It is an easy way to measure large distances in space. It is the distance between the Earth and the Sun, which is about 93 million miles. For really big distances, we...more
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
For a planet to be affected by a blob of material being ejected by the sun, the planet must be in the path of the blob, as shown in this picture. The Earth and its magnetosphere are shown in the bottom...more