Earth  Sun  Planets and Moons  ID: 4663

Earth's Magnetosphere

Earth's magnetic field creates a 'bubble' around Earth that helps protect our planet from some of the more harmful effects of energetic particles streaming out from the sun in the solar wind. Some of the earliest hints of this interaction go back to the 1850s with the work of Richard Carrington, and in the early 1900s with the work of Kristian Birkeland and Carl Stormer. That this field might form a type of 'bubble' around Earth was hypothesized by Sidney Chapman and Vincent Ferraro in the 1930s. The term 'magnetosphere' was applied to magnetic bubble by Thomas Gold in 1959. But it wasn't until the Space Age, when we sent the first probes to other planets, that we found clear evidence of their magnetic fields (though there were hints of a magnetic field for Jupiter in the 1950s, due to observations from radio telescopes).

In this series of visualizations, we present simplified models of these planetary magnetospheres, designed to illustrate their scale, and basic features of their structure and impacts of the magnetic axes offset from the planetary rotation axes.

For this Earth visualization, note that the north magnetic pole points out of the southern hemisphere.

For these visualizations, the magnetic field structure is represented by gold/copper lines. The semi-transparent grey mesh in the distance represents the boundary of the magnetosphere. Major satellites of the planetary system are also included.

The models are constructed by combining the fields of a simple magnetic dipole and a current sheet (whose intensity is tuned match the scale of the magnetotail). This is a variation of the simple Luhmann-Friesen magnetosphere model. They are meant to be representative of the basic characteristics of the planetary magnetic fields. Some features NOT included are longitudes of magnetic poles to a standard planetary coordinate system and offsets of the dipole center from the planetary center.


Special thanks to Arik Posner (NASA/HQ) and Gina DiBraccio (UMBC/GSFC) for helpful pointers on orientation of planetary rotation and magnetic axes.

Alternate Version


Visualization Credits

Tom Bridgman (GST): Lead Animator
Laurence Schuler (ADNET): Project Support
Ian Jones (ADNET): Project Support
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

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Data Used:
Luhmann-Friesen Magnetosphere Model (1979)/Magnetic Field Lines (Luhmann-Friesen)
Journal of Geophysical Research, vol. 84, Aug. 1, 1979, p. 4405-4408
also referred to as: DE 430
Ephemeris - JPL NAIF
JPL DE 430
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

This item is part of this series:
Planetary Magnetospheres

SVS >> Earth
SVS >> Magnetosphere
SVS >> Hyperwall
NASA Science >> Earth
NASA Science >> Sun
NASA Science >> Planets and Moons