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Click to enlargeIMAGE Earth's Plasma Tail Photo

January 25, 2001
Photo No: I2001-08a
Earth's Plasma Tail

This picture is a false color image of the transparent, electrified gas (plasma) trapped inside Earth's magnetic field. By tracking the motion of this plasma, scientists are getting the first large-scale, global views of the Earth's magnetic field and magnetic storms. This picture was taken by NASA's Imager for Magnetopause to Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) spacecraft on August 11, 2000 at around 18:00 UT. The IMAGE spacecraft is looking down at the Earth from above the north pole, and the globe or sphere in the center represents the position and size of the Earth. The Sun is outside the picture area towards the top right corner (note the shadow cast by the Earth in its own plasma cloud at the bottom left of the blue image).

The blue image is the ultraviolet glow from relatively cold plasma as seen by the Extreme Ultraviolet imager (EUV) instrument on board IMAGE. A hook-shaped "tail" of plasma streaming toward the Sun can be seen at the top left of the picture. Note also the small, faint circle near the center of the image - this is the ultraviolet glow from the aurora, also known as the northern lights.

Credits: NASA and the IMAGE Science Team

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