The Sun and Earth both produce powerful magnetic fields, and their intersection develops a complex system of physics that determines the space weather experienced by our planet.
The solar wind - a constant stream of charged particles (plasma) emitted from the Sun - collides with Earth’s magnetic field, like water flowing around a rock in a river. The collision of the two magnetic fields produces a phenomenon known as magnetic reconnection, in which the field lines of both the planet and its star snap together following the perturbation. The process releases jets of high-energy plasma, which can produce auroras and disrupt communication systems when they collide with Earth’s magnetic field.
Featured image: Artist’s conception of the four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft investigating magnetic reconnection at the boundary of Earth’s magnetosphere. Credit: Southwest Research Institute, CC BY 2.0