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.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Charged Particle Motion in Earth's Magnetosphere

Motions within Earth's metallic core generate the planet's global magnetic field. This magnetic field extends beyond Earth's surface and atmosphere into the space surrounding our home planet. The interaction...more


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 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 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 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 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 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 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