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The Magnetosphere

The Magnetosphere

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Published by Boris Petrovic
The magnetic Field of the earth to a large extent shields it from the continual supersonic outflow of the sun's ionized upper atmosphere. However, some of the mass, momentum and energy of this solar wind gains entry into the magnetosphere, powering current systems, geomagnetic storms and auroral displays. Other planets too have magnetospheres. Some of these magnetospheres are due to intrinsic magnetic fields as in the case of the earth. Others are due solely to the interaction of the planet with the solar wind as in the case of a comet.

If there were no solar wind, the physical processes occurring far above the earth in the tenuous upper atmosphere and ionosphere might be well understood and the subject of little interest. However, there is a continual supersonic outflow of ionized gas or plasma from the sun that confines and distorts the terrestrial magnetic field into a cavity with a long tail extending hundreds of earth radii in the antisolar direction. This cavity, called the magnetosphere, is very responsive to changing solar wind conditions. Physical processes occurring therein modulate the energy flow carried by the solar wind to the earth. At times the magnetic cavity acts as a shield deflecting the incident energy; at other times it acts as an accelerator, driven by the solar wind, creating charged particle beams that hit the neutral upper atmosphere, causing it to light up with the brilliant forms of the polar aurora.

The magnetic Field of the earth to a large extent shields it from the continual supersonic outflow of the sun's ionized upper atmosphere. However, some of the mass, momentum and energy of this solar wind gains entry into the magnetosphere, powering current systems, geomagnetic storms and auroral displays. Other planets too have magnetospheres. Some of these magnetospheres are due to intrinsic magnetic fields as in the case of the earth. Others are due solely to the interaction of the planet with the solar wind as in the case of a comet.

If there were no solar wind, the physical processes occurring far above the earth in the tenuous upper atmosphere and ionosphere might be well understood and the subject of little interest. However, there is a continual supersonic outflow of ionized gas or plasma from the sun that confines and distorts the terrestrial magnetic field into a cavity with a long tail extending hundreds of earth radii in the antisolar direction. This cavity, called the magnetosphere, is very responsive to changing solar wind conditions. Physical processes occurring therein modulate the energy flow carried by the solar wind to the earth. At times the magnetic cavity acts as a shield deflecting the incident energy; at other times it acts as an accelerator, driven by the solar wind, creating charged particle beams that hit the neutral upper atmosphere, causing it to light up with the brilliant forms of the polar aurora.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Boris Petrovic on Apr 11, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/27/2013

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