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Astronomy

8.1 The Global Perspective

Astronomy8.1 The Global Perspective
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  1. Preface
  2. 1 Science and the Universe: A Brief Tour
    1. Introduction
    2. 1.1 The Nature of Astronomy
    3. 1.2 The Nature of Science
    4. 1.3 The Laws of Nature
    5. 1.4 Numbers in Astronomy
    6. 1.5 Consequences of Light Travel Time
    7. 1.6 A Tour of the Universe
    8. 1.7 The Universe on the Large Scale
    9. 1.8 The Universe of the Very Small
    10. 1.9 A Conclusion and a Beginning
    11. For Further Exploration
  3. 2 Observing the Sky: The Birth of Astronomy
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 2.1 The Sky Above
    3. 2.2 Ancient Astronomy
    4. 2.3 Astrology and Astronomy
    5. 2.4 The Birth of Modern Astronomy
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  4. 3 Orbits and Gravity
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 3.1 The Laws of Planetary Motion
    3. 3.2 Newton’s Great Synthesis
    4. 3.3 Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation
    5. 3.4 Orbits in the Solar System
    6. 3.5 Motions of Satellites and Spacecraft
    7. 3.6 Gravity with More Than Two Bodies
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  5. 4 Earth, Moon, and Sky
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 4.1 Earth and Sky
    3. 4.2 The Seasons
    4. 4.3 Keeping Time
    5. 4.4 The Calendar
    6. 4.5 Phases and Motions of the Moon
    7. 4.6 Ocean Tides and the Moon
    8. 4.7 Eclipses of the Sun and Moon
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary
    11. For Further Exploration
    12. Collaborative Group Activities
    13. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  6. 5 Radiation and Spectra
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 5.1 The Behavior of Light
    3. 5.2 The Electromagnetic Spectrum
    4. 5.3 Spectroscopy in Astronomy
    5. 5.4 The Structure of the Atom
    6. 5.5 Formation of Spectral Lines
    7. 5.6 The Doppler Effect
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  7. 6 Astronomical Instruments
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 6.1 Telescopes
    3. 6.2 Telescopes Today
    4. 6.3 Visible-Light Detectors and Instruments
    5. 6.4 Radio Telescopes
    6. 6.5 Observations outside Earth’s Atmosphere
    7. 6.6 The Future of Large Telescopes
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  8. 7 Other Worlds: An Introduction to the Solar System
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 7.1 Overview of Our Planetary System
    3. 7.2 Composition and Structure of Planets
    4. 7.3 Dating Planetary Surfaces
    5. 7.4 Origin of the Solar System
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  9. 8 Earth as a Planet
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 8.1 The Global Perspective
    3. 8.2 Earth’s Crust
    4. 8.3 Earth’s Atmosphere
    5. 8.4 Life, Chemical Evolution, and Climate Change
    6. 8.5 Cosmic Influences on the Evolution of Earth
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  10. 9 Cratered Worlds
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 9.1 General Properties of the Moon
    3. 9.2 The Lunar Surface
    4. 9.3 Impact Craters
    5. 9.4 The Origin of the Moon
    6. 9.5 Mercury
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  11. 10 Earthlike Planets: Venus and Mars
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 10.1 The Nearest Planets: An Overview
    3. 10.2 The Geology of Venus
    4. 10.3 The Massive Atmosphere of Venus
    5. 10.4 The Geology of Mars
    6. 10.5 Water and Life on Mars
    7. 10.6 Divergent Planetary Evolution
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  12. 11 The Giant Planets
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 11.1 Exploring the Outer Planets
    3. 11.2 The Giant Planets
    4. 11.3 Atmospheres of the Giant Planets
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary
    7. For Further Exploration
    8. Collaborative Group Activities
    9. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  13. 12 Rings, Moons, and Pluto
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 12.1 Ring and Moon Systems Introduced
    3. 12.2 The Galilean Moons of Jupiter
    4. 12.3 Titan and Triton
    5. 12.4 Pluto and Charon
    6. 12.5 Planetary Rings
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  14. 13 Comets and Asteroids: Debris of the Solar System
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 13.1 Asteroids
    3. 13.2 Asteroids and Planetary Defense
    4. 13.3 The “Long-Haired” Comets
    5. 13.4 The Origin and Fate of Comets and Related Objects
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  15. 14 Cosmic Samples and the Origin of the Solar System
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 14.1 Meteors
    3. 14.2 Meteorites: Stones from Heaven
    4. 14.3 Formation of the Solar System
    5. 14.4 Comparison with Other Planetary Systems
    6. 14.5 Planetary Evolution
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  16. 15 The Sun: A Garden-Variety Star
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 15.1 The Structure and Composition of the Sun
    3. 15.2 The Solar Cycle
    4. 15.3 Solar Activity above the Photosphere
    5. 15.4 Space Weather
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  17. 16 The Sun: A Nuclear Powerhouse
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 16.1 Sources of Sunshine: Thermal and Gravitational Energy
    3. 16.2 Mass, Energy, and the Theory of Relativity
    4. 16.3 The Solar Interior: Theory
    5. 16.4 The Solar Interior: Observations
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  18. 17 Analyzing Starlight
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 17.1 The Brightness of Stars
    3. 17.2 Colors of Stars
    4. 17.3 The Spectra of Stars (and Brown Dwarfs)
    5. 17.4 Using Spectra to Measure Stellar Radius, Composition, and Motion
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  19. 18 The Stars: A Celestial Census
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 18.1 A Stellar Census
    3. 18.2 Measuring Stellar Masses
    4. 18.3 Diameters of Stars
    5. 18.4 The H–R Diagram
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  20. 19 Celestial Distances
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 19.1 Fundamental Units of Distance
    3. 19.2 Surveying the Stars
    4. 19.3 Variable Stars: One Key to Cosmic Distances
    5. 19.4 The H–R Diagram and Cosmic Distances
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  21. 20 Between the Stars: Gas and Dust in Space
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 20.1 The Interstellar Medium
    3. 20.2 Interstellar Gas
    4. 20.3 Cosmic Dust
    5. 20.4 Cosmic Rays
    6. 20.5 The Life Cycle of Cosmic Material
    7. 20.6 Interstellar Matter around the Sun
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  22. 21 The Birth of Stars and the Discovery of Planets outside the Solar System
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 21.1 Star Formation
    3. 21.2 The H–R Diagram and the Study of Stellar Evolution
    4. 21.3 Evidence That Planets Form around Other Stars
    5. 21.4 Planets beyond the Solar System: Search and Discovery
    6. 21.5 Exoplanets Everywhere: What We Are Learning
    7. 21.6 New Perspectives on Planet Formation
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  23. 22 Stars from Adolescence to Old Age
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 22.1 Evolution from the Main Sequence to Red Giants
    3. 22.2 Star Clusters
    4. 22.3 Checking Out the Theory
    5. 22.4 Further Evolution of Stars
    6. 22.5 The Evolution of More Massive Stars
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  24. 23 The Death of Stars
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 23.1 The Death of Low-Mass Stars
    3. 23.2 Evolution of Massive Stars: An Explosive Finish
    4. 23.3 Supernova Observations
    5. 23.4 Pulsars and the Discovery of Neutron Stars
    6. 23.5 The Evolution of Binary Star Systems
    7. 23.6 The Mystery of the Gamma-Ray Bursts
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  25. 24 Black Holes and Curved Spacetime
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 24.1 Introducing General Relativity
    3. 24.2 Spacetime and Gravity
    4. 24.3 Tests of General Relativity
    5. 24.4 Time in General Relativity
    6. 24.5 Black Holes
    7. 24.6 Evidence for Black Holes
    8. 24.7 Gravitational Wave Astronomy
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary
    11. For Further Exploration
    12. Collaborative Group Activities
    13. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  26. 25 The Milky Way Galaxy
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 25.1 The Architecture of the Galaxy
    3. 25.2 Spiral Structure
    4. 25.3 The Mass of the Galaxy
    5. 25.4 The Center of the Galaxy
    6. 25.5 Stellar Populations in the Galaxy
    7. 25.6 The Formation of the Galaxy
    8. Key Terms
    9. Summary
    10. For Further Exploration
    11. Collaborative Group Activities
    12. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  27. 26 Galaxies
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 26.1 The Discovery of Galaxies
    3. 26.2 Types of Galaxies
    4. 26.3 Properties of Galaxies
    5. 26.4 The Extragalactic Distance Scale
    6. 26.5 The Expanding Universe
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  28. 27 Active Galaxies, Quasars, and Supermassive Black Holes
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 27.1 Quasars
    3. 27.2 Supermassive Black Holes: What Quasars Really Are
    4. 27.3 Quasars as Probes of Evolution in the Universe
    5. Key Terms
    6. Summary
    7. For Further Exploration
    8. Collaborative Group Activities
    9. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  29. 28 The Evolution and Distribution of Galaxies
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 28.1 Observations of Distant Galaxies
    3. 28.2 Galaxy Mergers and Active Galactic Nuclei
    4. 28.3 The Distribution of Galaxies in Space
    5. 28.4 The Challenge of Dark Matter
    6. 28.5 The Formation and Evolution of Galaxies and Structure in the Universe
    7. Key Terms
    8. Summary
    9. For Further Exploration
    10. Collaborative Group Activities
    11. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  30. 29 The Big Bang
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 29.1 The Age of the Universe
    3. 29.2 A Model of the Universe
    4. 29.3 The Beginning of the Universe
    5. 29.4 The Cosmic Microwave Background
    6. 29.5 What Is the Universe Really Made Of?
    7. 29.6 The Inflationary Universe
    8. 29.7 The Anthropic Principle
    9. Key Terms
    10. Summary
    11. For Further Exploration
    12. Collaborative Group Activities
    13. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  31. 30 Life in the Universe
    1. Thinking Ahead
    2. 30.1 The Cosmic Context for Life
    3. 30.2 Astrobiology
    4. 30.3 Searching for Life beyond Earth
    5. 30.4 The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
    6. Key Terms
    7. Summary
    8. For Further Exploration
    9. Collaborative Group Activities
    10. Exercises
      1. Review Questions
      2. Thought Questions
      3. Figuring for Yourself
  32. A | How to Study for an Introductory Astronomy Class
  33. B | Astronomy Websites, Images, and Apps
  34. C | Scientific Notation
  35. D | Units Used in Science
  36. E | Some Useful Constants for Astronomy
  37. F | Physical and Orbital Data for the Planets
  38. G | Selected Moons of the Planets
  39. H | Future Total Eclipses
  40. I | The Nearest Stars, Brown Dwarfs, and White Dwarfs
  41. J | The Brightest Twenty Stars
  42. K | The Chemical Elements
  43. L | The Constellations
  44. M | Star Chart and Sky Event Resources
  45. Index

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the components of Earth’s interior and explain how scientists determined its structure
  • Specify the origin, size, and extent of Earth’s magnetic field

Earth is a medium-size planet with a diameter of approximately 12,760 kilometers (Figure 8.2). As one of the inner or terrestrial planets, it is composed primarily of heavy elements such as iron, silicon, and oxygen—very different from the composition of the Sun and stars, which are dominated by the light elements hydrogen and helium. Earth’s orbit is nearly circular, and Earth is warm enough to support liquid water on its surface. It is the only planet in our solar system that is neither too hot nor too cold, but “just right” for the development of life as we know it. Some of the basic properties of Earth are summarized in Table 8.1.

Image of Earth from Space. This photograph shows Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Madagascar, and Antarctica surrounded by the Atlantic & Indian oceans. Numerous cloud formations are scattered across the globe.
Figure 8.2 Blue Marble. This image of Earth from space, taken by the Apollo 17 astronauts, is known as the “Blue Marble.” This is one of the rare images of a full Earth taken during the Apollo program; most images show only part of Earth’s disk in sunlight. (credit: modification of work by NASA)
Some Properties of Earth
Property Measurement
Semimajor axis 1.00 AU
Period 1.00 year
Mass 5.98 × 1024 kg
Diameter 12,756 km
Radius 6378 km
Escape velocity 11.2 km/s
Rotational period 23 h 56 m 4 s
Surface area 5.1 × 108 km2
Density 5.514 g/cm3
Atmospheric pressure 1.00 bar
Table 8.1

Earth’s Interior

The interior of a planet—even our own Earth—is difficult to study, and its composition and structure must be determined indirectly. Our only direct experience is with the outermost skin of Earths crust, a layer no more than a few kilometers deep. It is important to remember that, in many ways, we know less about our own planet 5 kilometers beneath our feet than we do about the surfaces of Venus and Mars.

Earth is composed largely of metal and silicate rock (see the Composition and Structure of Planets section). Most of this material is in a solid state, but some of it is hot enough to be molten. The structure of material in Earth’s interior has been probed in considerable detail by measuring the transmission of seismic waves through Earth. These are waves that spread through the interior of Earth from earthquakes or explosion sites.

Seismic waves travel through a planet rather like sound waves through a struck bell. Just as the sound frequencies vary depending on the material the bell is made of and how it is constructed, so a planets response depends on its composition and structure. By monitoring the seismic waves in different locations, scientists can learn about the layers through which the waves have traveled. Some of these vibrations travel along the surface; others pass directly through the interior. Seismic studies have shown that Earth’s interior consists of several distinct layers with different compositions, illustrated in Figure 8.3. As waves travel through different materials in Earth’s interior, the waves—just like light waves in telescope lenses—bend (or refract) so that some seismic stations on Earth receive the waves and others are in “shadows.” Detecting the waves in a network of seismographs helps scientists construct a model of Earth’s interior, showing liquid and solid layers. This type of seismic imaging is not unlike that used in ultrasound, a type of imaging used to see inside the body.

Cut-away View of the Interior of the Earth. This illustration shows the globe of the Earth with a wedge-shaped portion removed to reveal the interior. The inner core is labeled and represented as a small yellow sphere at the center. Next, the core is shown in orange and surrounds the inner core. The larger mantle surrounds the core and is drawn in taupe. Finally, the crust is indicated as a thin blue line.
Figure 8.3 Interior Structure of Earth. The crust, mantle, and inner and outer cores (solid and liquid, respectively) as shown as revealed by seismic studies.

The top layer is the crust, the part of Earth we know best (Figure 8.4). Oceanic crust covers 55% of Earth’s surface and lies mostly submerged under the oceans. It is typically about 6 kilometers thick and is composed of volcanic rocks called basalt. Produced by the cooling of volcanic lava, basalts are made primarily of the elements silicon, oxygen, iron, aluminum, and magnesium. The continental crust covers 45% of the surface, some of which is also beneath the oceans. The continental crust is 20 to 70 kilometers thick and is composed predominantly of a different volcanic class of silicates (rocks made of silicon and oxygen) called granite. These crustal rocks, both oceanic and continental, typically have densities of about 3 g/cm3. (For comparison, the density of water is 1 g/cm3.) The crust is the easiest layer for geologists to study, but it makes up only about 0.3% of the total mass of Earth.

Computer-generated image of the entire Earth’s crust, including the details of the ocean floor.
Figure 8.4 Earth’s Crust. This computer-generated image shows the surface of Earth’s crust as determined from satellite images and ocean floor radar mapping. Oceans and lakes are shown in blue, with darker areas representing depth. Dry land is shown in shades of green and brown, and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are depicted in shades of white. (credit: modification of work by C. Amante, B. W. Eakins, National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA)

The largest part of the solid Earth, called the mantle, stretches from the base of the crust downward to a depth of 2900 kilometers. The mantle is more or less solid, but at the temperatures and pressures found there, mantle rock can deform and flow slowly. The density in the mantle increases downward from about 3.5 g/cm3 to more than 5 g/cm3 as a result of the compression produced by the weight of overlying material. Samples of upper mantle material are occasionally ejected from volcanoes, permitting a detailed analysis of its chemistry.

Beginning at a depth of 2900 kilometers, we encounter the dense metallic core of Earth. With a diameter of 7000 kilometers, our core is substantially larger than the entire planet Mercury. The outer core is liquid, but the innermost part of the core (about 2400 kilometers in diameter) is probably solid. In addition to iron, the core probably also contains substantial quantities of nickel and sulfur, all compressed to a very high density.

The separation of Earth into layers of different densities is an example of differentiation, the process of sorting the major components of a planet by density. The fact that Earth is differentiated suggests that it was once warm enough for its interior to melt, permitting the heavier metals to sink to the center and form the dense core. Evidence for differentiation comes from comparing the planet’s bulk density (5.5 g/cm3) with the surface materials (3 g/cm3) to suggest that denser material must be buried in the core.

Magnetic Field and Magnetosphere

We can find additional clues about Earth’s interior from its magnetic field. Our planet behaves in some ways as if a giant bar magnet were inside it, aligned approximately with the rotational poles of Earth. This magnetic field is generated by moving material in Earth’s liquid metallic core. As the liquid metal inside Earth circulates, it sets up a circulating electric current. When many charged particles are moving together like that—in the laboratory or on the scale of an entire planet—they produce a magnetic field.

Earth’s magnetic field extends into surrounding space. When a charged particle encounters a magnetic field in space, it becomes trapped in the magnetic zone. Above Earth’s atmosphere, our field is able to trap small quantities of electrons and other atomic particles. This region, called the magnetosphere, is defined as the zone within which Earth’s magnetic field dominates over the weak interplanetary magnetic field that extends outward from the Sun (Figure 8.5).

Illustration of the Earth’s Magnetosphere. At left an arrow points leftward indicating the direction of the Sun. The Solar wind is drawn as numerous particles coming from the left. Slightly off-center to the right the Earth is shown, with an arrow for the north pole pointing upward, and one pointing down for the south pole. To the left and right of the Earth are two nested purple crescents with their points touching the poles of the Earth. These areas are labeled as the Van Allen belts. Outside the Van Allen belts the lines of the magnetic field are drawn in white. On the left side of the Earth (facing the Sun in this diagram), the lines originate at the north pole and curve out away from the surface then curve back to end at the south pole. Four of these curves are shown, each extending further out into space than the one proceeding it. On the right side of the Earth (facing away from the Sun), the magnetic field lines are also drawn, but have very different shapes than those on the left. The innermost line on the right looks very similar to the innermost line of the left. But each successive line moves further and further out into space before returning to the poles. Thus the magnetic field is much more elongated in shape on the side of the Earth facing away from the Sun.
Figure 8.5 Earth’s Magnetosphere. A cross-sectional view of our magnetosphere (or zone of magnetic influence), as revealed by numerous spacecraft missions. Note how the wind of charged particles from the Sun “blows” the magnetic field outward like a wind sock.

Where do the charged particles trapped in our magnetosphere come from? They flow outward from the hot surface of the Sun; this is called the solar wind. It not only provides particles for Earth’s magnetic field to trap, it also stretches our field in the direction pointing away from the Sun. Typically, Earth’s magnetosphere extends about 60,000 kilometers, or 10 Earth radii, in the direction of the Sun. But, in the direction away from the Sun, the magnetic field can reach as far as the orbit of the Moon, and sometimes farther.

The magnetosphere was discovered in 1958 by instruments on the first US Earth satellite, Explorer 1, which recorded the ions (charged particles) trapped in its inner part. The regions of high-energy ions in the magnetosphere are often called the Van Allen belts in recognition of the University of Iowa professor who built the scientific instrumentation for Explorer 1. Since 1958, hundreds of spacecraft have explored various regions of the magnetosphere. You can read more about its interaction with the Sun in a later chapter.

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