The magnetotail is characterised by magnetic field lines stretched by the solar wind flow in the anti-sunward direction. The outer region consists of two magnetotail lobes and the inner region of the plasma sheet boundary layer and the central plasma sheet. The latter region is also known as the neutral sheet. The lobes are large reservoirs of magnetic energy which contain less than one particle per cubic centimetre.
Illustration of Earth's magnetosphere (in blue) immersed in the solar wind.
Cluster is the first space mission to study in 3D the various phenomena occuring in this region. In particular, the Cluster data have enabled a leap forward in our understanding of magnetic reconnection, mapping for the first time, with multiple spacecraft, the core region of this universal phenomenon (see Featured highlight).
Last Update: 29 November 2010