ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Earth’s Magnetosphere and its dynamics


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Earths magnetosphere

Mains level: Earths magnetosphere and its significance for space missions

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) have developed a generalized one-dimensional fluid simulation code capable of studying a wide spectrum of coherent electric field structures of earth’s magnetosphere which can be useful in the planning of future space missions.

The newscard talks of not so new phenomenon but a basic terminology of space sciences. Kindly make a note of what the Magnotesphere is, how it is formed, role of solar winds, Geodynamo etc.

Earth’s Magnetosphere

  • The magnetosphere is the region of space surrounding Earth where the dominant magnetic field is the magnetic field of Earth, rather than the magnetic field of interplanetary space.
  • It is generated by the interaction of the solar wind with Earth’s magnetic field.

Features of the Earth’s magnetosphere

1) Bow shock,

2) Magnetosheath,

3) Magnetopause,

4) Northern tail lobe,

5) Southern tail lobe,

6) Plasmasphere,

7) Solar wind.

How is it formed?

  • Sun is the major source of plasma deposition in space around the Earth. Sun forces some of its plasma towards the earth in the form of the solar wind.
  • The speed of this wind varies between 300 to 1500 km/s, which carries with it solar magnetic field, called as Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF).
  • The magnetic field is generated by electric currents due to the motion of convection currents of a mixture of molten iron and nickel in the Earth’s outer core.
  • These convection currents are caused by heat escaping from the core, a natural process called a geodynamo.

Why study the magnetosphere?

  • The Earth’s magnetosphere is a vast region which has a finite number of satellites hurtling through this realm.
  • The morphology of the plasma processes around the satellite can be understood quite well.
  • However, when they leave the observational domain of one satellite to enter into another, a vast blind arena is created.
  • How the morphology of these processes changes over space and time can be ideally deciphered only through computer simulations.

Outcome of the study

  • Almost 99% of matter in the universe is in the form of plasma, Earth’s magnetosphere, too, contains this material and the plasma.
  • They have the ability to hamper the working of a number of satellites that have been placed in orbit in the magnetospheric region.


  • Apart from the well being of these expensive satellites, the academic understanding of this region is quite essential to comprehend the cosmos in its entirety.
  • The study will help advance the knowledge of plasma waves, instabilities, and coherent effects associated with wave-particle interactions that are useful in planning of future space missions.
  • It can also lead to precisely controlled fusion laboratory experiments for ever-expanding energy needs of humanity.

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