Journal article Open Access

A brief history of magnetospheric physics during the space age

Stern, David P.

After 1958, when scientific satellites began exploring the Earth magnetic environment, many puzzling phenomena could be directly examined, especially the polar aurora and disturbances of the Earth's magnetic field [see Stern, 1989a]. The notion of the solar wind, also introduced in 1958, helped clarify the role of the Sun in driving such phenomena. The large‐scale structure of the magnetosphere, the space region dominated by the Earth's magnetic field, was gradually revealed within the next decade: its trapped particles, its boundary, and its long magnetic tail on the nightside. Inevitably, however, at a more fundamental level, the new discoveries led to new questions about the transfer of energy, the flow patterns of plasmas and electric currents, the acceleration of the aurora, and transient events such as magnetic substorms and storms, which energized ions and electrons. Though significant progress has occurred in some of these areas, many unresolved issues still remain. This review outlines the history of magnetospheric research, draws some general conclusions, and provides an extensive bibliography.

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