Sun  Earth  ID: 10954

Rattling Earth's Force Field

A giant magnetic bubble surrounds Earth, shielding our planet from the sheer power of the sun. Invisible to the human eye, the bubble—called the magnetosphere—is fairly round on the side that faces the sun, and then forms long, spaghetti-like strands that trail behind Earth and move in concert with the constant stream of magnetized particles known as the solar wind. The magnetosphere protects Earth from the brunt of the sun's energetic outbursts. But some gigantic eruptions of solar material, called coronal mass ejections, can nonetheless compress the shape of the magnetosphere, creating a geomagnetic storm. During strong geomagnetic storms, the fluctuation of magnetism and electricity near Earth can interfere with communication and GPS satellites, induce electrical surges in power grids on the ground and light up the skies with auroras. Watch the visualization below to see the shape of the magnetosphere that surrounds and cradles Earth, protecting it from the sun's explosions.

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Story Credits

Greg Shirah (NASA/GSFC)
Tom Bridgman (Global Science and Technology, Inc.)

Michael Starobin (HTSI)

Lead Writer:
Karen Fox (ADNET Systems, Inc.)

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Aurora photograph from Thomas Kast

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