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Animated computer simulation of Earth's magnetosphere/ionosphere response to the impact of a solar magnetic cloud. The color scale indicates density of ions & electrons (or plasma) in the solar wind and within the Earth's magnetosphere (grey shaded area). Impacting clouds intensify the plasma at the Earth's magnetic bow, move the bow closer to the Earth, and stretch out the Earth's magnetic tail. The impact also scatters plasma within the Earth's magnetosphere which subsequently spirals down magnetic field lines to create aurora borealis (lower righthand corner).
The magnetic cloud impact described above also intensifies the large-scale voltage measured over the Earth's magnetic pole. In this animation, the plot on the left shows the disturbed voltage pattern with contours of constant voltage during the impact event. This pattern indicates that the polar voltage grows large at cloud impact, an observable that can readily be measured with an AMISR station at polar latitudes. The simulated aurora (described above and shown in the plot on the right) indicates the expected intensification of auroral energy into the atmosphere – another key parameter measured by the AMISR.