On Its Way To Earth, The Solar Wind First Encounters

In 2020, kosid.org partnered via NASA’s STEAM Innovation Lab and NASA’s Magnetosphere Multirange Mission (MMS) to architecture and also develop the world’s initially 3D printed magnetosphere version. We have actually just released the beta variation (1.0) and also are excited for educators, Makers, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and the basic public to beta test it on printers and with audiences—and also to include their very own innovations.

The papers are obtainable on GitHub. Educator Reresources are available here, and you can also uncover web links on NASA’s STEAM Innovation Lab website. 

UPDATE: Take a video tour of the model with Dr. Liz and Laura here:

A New Model

Despite the idiom “empty space,” external room is not empty. The Earth is surrounded by a large, invisible magnetic pressure field that protects our earth from the solar wind: torrents of pwrite-ups and magnetic fields streaming from the Sun. The interaction between these particles and also the magnetic field, or magnetosphere, is fundamental to exactly how auroras are made. 


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Canonical magnetospbelow diagram, C. T. Russell, in Review to Gap Physics, ed. M. G. Kivelkid and C. T. Russell


The magnetosphere approximately Earth is comprised of a soup of charged pposts dubbed plasma. The plasma separates electrically and also magnetically, via plasma populaces differing in energy, density, and movement. While there are many type of areas, the 3D Printed Magnetosphere Model simplifies to the following: Magnetopause, Plasma Sheet, Outer Radiation Belt, Ring Current, Auroras, and also Earth (including Inner Core, Outer Core, Mantle, and Crust). Users have the right to relocate, revolve, and disassemble components of the version so that each piece deserve to be examined by itself or as part of a device.

You watching: On its way to earth, the solar wind first encounters


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3D rendering of “exploded” see via all pieces. Dimensions: 231mm L x 155mm W x 152 mm H


In this article, we walk you via one of the science stories that this design illustrates, while providing you a behind-the-scenes look at the method the model was emerged.

A Sun-Planet Story

The Magnetopause

On approaching Planet, the solar wind first encounters the planet’s magnetopausage, the boundary of the magnetospright here formed by the interaction of the solar wind via Earth’s magnetic area. On our 3D print of the model, this is represented by a dark blue shell that acts as a situation, opening alengthy the x axis. 


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One half of the magnetopausage, upper half (left) and also reduced half (right.) The sunward side is rounded, while the nightside magnetotail is truncated. From both approaches a polar cusp is visible, and in the second photo the inner contouring in the magnetotail is additionally displayed. Keep in mind that there are 3 supports angling in from the sides of the reduced fifty percent of the magnetopausage section (right). These are exclusively structural components of the design, and also execute not reflect actual parts of the magnetosphere


The sunward side of the magnetopausage is compressed by the solar wind, while the side away from the Sun is stretched into a very lengthy, comet-favor “magnetotail.” The magnetopause have the right to likewise readjust dimension and also form relying on the stamina of the solar wind. In order to fit on 3D printers, the magnetotail of the 3D Printed Magnetospbelow Model is truncated—but the full size can be portrayed via an add-on, choose a item of towel sewn like a windsock. Pshort articles from the solar wind enter the noon-aligned “nose” of the magnetosphere, then move using convection to the magnetotail.

See more: Solar Pros Waldorf Md 20601


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Earth’s magnetosphere, mirroring the north and also southern polar cusps.Credits: Andøya Gap Center/Trond Abrahamsen


The magnetosphere additionally has 2 funnel-like “cusps” over its poles: direct entry points for the solar wind into Earth’s setting. These assist cause the rarely-seen, daytime “cusp aurora“. 

Note: While the blue shell technically represents the magnetopausage, we called the corresponding documents “magnetosphere” because they ensituation all of the frameworks in the 3D Printed Magnetosphere Model. The scientific term “magnetosphere” contains all of the structures. 

The Plasma Sheet


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The white plasma sheet is marked via important attributes and referral markers for magnetic regional time


Plasma that gone into the magnetosphere from the dayside is moved to the nightside through convection and also stored in the stretching magnetotail. The plasma sheet is a flattish equatorial airplane of denser plasma and a weaker magnetic area. On the version, a white shelf representing the plasma sheet equatorial aircraft is labeled with necessary frameworks and also principles, including the flow of plasma and directions family member to the Sun. We have had suggestions that there can be numerous alternative versions that users could swap out to illustrate transforming problems, and other features choose plasma waves. Anvarious other idea was to cover one side via a dry-erase decal and also have students label various elements. What would certainly you add?

The plasma sheet surrounds and also connects through the ring current (pictured in grey), an electric existing brought by energetic pwrite-ups that encircles our world at a distance of about 6,200 to 37,000 miles (10,000 to 60,000 km). The ring existing drives a worldwide system of electric curleas both in space and also on Earth’s surchallenge, which in the time of intense geomagnetic storms have the right to sevedepend damages technological units. In the ring present, ions relocate clockwise and electrons relocate counterclockwise. As the Earth rotates underneath the oval-shaped area wbelow the aurora is the majority of energetic, the various ppost directions relate to various kinds of auroras on the side of the earth closest to dawn and the side closest to dusk. 

The Radiation Belts


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The three-item Radiation Belt and also Ring Current region rotates and comes apart


Moving toward the Planet, plasma is energized to form the Van Allen Radiation Belts: dynamic areas of high-energy charged particles that surround the Earth. The Outer Radiation Belt is represented in the 3D Printed Magnetospbelow Model by a light blue torus, or “doughnut”. The Inner Radiation Belt is not stood for on this version of the model; tbelow wasn’t room. The Radiation Belts can damage satellites in geosynchronous orlittle bit (noted GEO on the model) and current radiation risks to astronauts. Their intensities are impacted by solar geomagnetic storms. In order to learn even more around them, the NASA Van Allen Probes Mission stupassed away these regions from 2012-2019, using satellites. Designer Patrick Haas produced 2 different assistance systems for suspending these functions inside the version, both of which are gave. 

The Earth


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The Earth has actually two hemispheres that sepaprice so that various regions deserve to be examined. Unassembled Southern hemispbelow (above), assembled Southern Hemispright here (below)


Finally, the plasma reaches the Planet. Energized by the journey via the magnetosphere, particles sleet right into the upper atmosphere, energizing atoms and molecules at altitudes between 100 to even more than 500 kilometers (60 miles to more than 300 miles). These atoms and also molecules subsequently provide off auroral light. Representations of the auroral ovals fit approximately the northern and also southern magnetic poles at the cusp insertion points. Because the Earth rotates underneath the auroral oval, the aurora pieces are able to revolve separately. 

How did the magnetosphere involved be? The Earth itself is stood for by 2 hemispheres organized together by magnets. They are intended to come acomponent and expose the planet’s crust, external mantle, inner mantle, and core. Convection in the mantle layers geneprices the Earth’s magnetic field by an internal dynamo and also it exhas a tendency out into area.

How execute you think your learners would certainly respond to each of these pieces?

Technical Specs and Considerations


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This print was produced on a Prusa i3 MK3


Dimensions through all pieces assembled are 231mm lengthy x 155mm wide x 152mm high. While it’s pretty close, the 3D Printed Magnetospright here Model isn’t fairly to scale. We made it a priority for this model to be available to a variety of printers, so we had actually to make some comguarantees. The maximum size is limited by the dimension of 3D printer beds, while the minimum dimension is restricted by printcapability. The largest pieces of the model need a printer that has a print volume of 240mm x 200mm and at least 80mm high, via 0.2mm layer (z resolution) minimum. This project requires a huge number of components that must fit right into one an additional with sensibly tight tolerances. Lead Designer Patrick Haas developed novel, printable interencounters and geometries, and also thoapproximately test-published each to encertain that other makers will certainly have the ability to print properly. 

Version 1.0 beta experimentation is just the start for the 3D Printed Magnetospbelow Model! We invite Makers, SMEs, and also educators to hack and refine the papers, or to collaboprice with us! We are interested in making the shapes more carefully recurrent snapshots of magnetospheric frameworks, and also including even more tactile ease of access attributes. Another principle is a printable hinge mechanism that joins the 2 halves of the Magnetospright here and is sturdy sufficient for classroom usage. Stay tuned to kosid.org and NASA’s STEAM Innovation Lab for future updates!

We hope that the 3D Printed Magnetospright here Model helps you share the science and also wonder of our world, and welcome feedback! How are you utilizing your model? If you have actually any type of concepts that we could implement in future versions, please let us recognize by filling out this survey. If you have developed an alternate or polished variation, please article your make and tag us on Twitter
TweetAurora and also
NASAHEAT, via the hashtag #3DMagnetosphere!


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