Akasofu, S. I. Department of Geophysics, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska.
Last reviewed:November 2019
- Solar wind–magnetosphere generator
- Auroral phenomena
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A comet-shaped cavity or bubble around the Earth, carved in the solar wind. This cavity is formed because the Earth's magnetic field represents an obstacle to the solar wind, which is a supersonic flow of plasma blowing away from the Sun. As a result, the solar wind flows around the Earth, confining the Earth and its magnetic field into a long cylindrical cavity with a blunt nose (Fig. 1). Since the solar wind is a supersonic flow, it also forms a bow shock a few earth radii away from the front of the cavity. The boundary of the cavity is called the magnetopause. The region between the bow shock and the magnetopause is called the magnetosheath. The Earth is located about 10 earth radii from the blunt-nosed front of the magnetopause. The long cylindrical section of the cavity is called the magnetotail, which is on the order of a few thousand earth radii in length, extending approximately radially away from the Sun. See also: Solar wind
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