This meeting of the magnetic fields is known as magnetic reconnection. During this process, the sun's electrical currents can enter Earth's atmosphere, and in the process, some of our own magnetic field gets stripped away. A new study from MIT and NASA, published in the journal Science this week, explores how a plume of plasma adds extra reinforcements to keep us earthlings safe during solar activity.
The plume is not terribly unlike a river, with particles that flow through a stream. "This higher-density, cold plasma changes about every plasma physics process it comes in contact with," MIT Haystack Observatory associate director John Foster said in a statement. "It slows down reconnection, and it can contribute to the generation of waves that, in turn, accelerate particles in other parts of the magnetosphere. So it's a recirculation process, and really fascinating."