Encyclopedia of Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism

2007 Edition
| Editors: David Gubbins, Emilio Herrero-Bervera

Magnetosphere of the Earth

  • Stanley W. H. Cowley
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4423-6_205

The Earth's magnetosphere is the region surrounding the planet, above the outer atmosphere and  ionosphere (q.v.), which contains and is controlled by the Earth's magnetic field. It extends from an altitude of ∼500 km above the Earth's surface to an outer boundary which is formed by the interaction of the planetary magnetic field with the solar wind, the plasma (charged particle) gas that streams continuously outward from the Sun. On the dayside, the compressive effect of the solar wind confines the field to a region extending ∼10 Earth radii from the Earth, while on the nightside the field is stretched into a long comet‐like tail which extends typically in excess of ∼1000 Earth radii. The Earth's radius, RE∼6400 km, is thus a convenient measure of magnetospheric spatial scales. Electric currents flowing in these regions, whose magnetic effects can be observed at the Earth's surface, include those flowing at the solar wind‐magnetosphere boundary, those produced by the drift of...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Cowley, S.W.H., Davies, J.A., Grocott, A., Khan, H., Lester, M., McWilliams, K.A., Milan, S.E., Provan, G., Sandholt, P.E., Wild, J.A., and Yeoman, T.K., 2003. Solar wind‐magnetosphere‐ionosphere interactions in the Earth's plasma environment. Philosophical Transactions A, 361: 113–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ohtani, S.‐I., Fujii, R., Hesse, M., and Lysak, R.L. 2000. Magnetospheric Current Systems, Geophysical Monograph 118. Washington, DC: American Geophysical Union.Google Scholar
  3. Paschmann, G., Haaland, S., and Treumann, R. (eds.), 2002. Auroral Plasma Physics, Space Science Review, Vol. 103.Google Scholar
  4. Sandholt, P.E., Carlson, H.C., and Egeland, A., 2001. Dayside and Polar Cap Aurora. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publisher.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stanley W. H. Cowley

There are no affiliations available