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Earth's climate and space environment are significantly determined by the impact of plasma, particle and radiative outputs from the Sun. With remote sensors at locations across Alaska, the Geophysical Institute Magnetometer Array senses the interactions between this "solar wind" and Earth's magnetosphere. They also sense the currents associated with auroras to determine their strength and location – and help scientists at the Geophysical Institute's Poker Flat Research Range predict which auroras are worth launching scientific sounding rockets into. At several magnetometer locations, all-sky cameras also provide optical data.



Earth's Magnetosphere

The Earth's magnetosphere is a fluctuating magnetic envelope surrounding the planet. Its uneven and stretched shape is created by the interaction of the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted by the sun, with Earth's own magnetic field. As part of a complex system that includes the ionosphere and upper atmosphere, the magnetosphere helps protect Earth from the solar storms that create aurora borealis in the Northern Hemisphere and aurora australis in the Southern Hemisphere.


solar wind bow shock



Space Weather and Earth's Aurora

In the image below, the glowing bundle of lines on the right represents billions of tons of plasma released from the Sun during a solar storm, traveling as fast as 8 million kilometers (5 million miles) an hour, headed for Earth. The video reveals what happens next. For more information on Earth's magnetosphere, space weather, and auroras, explore the NASA website.



Real-time Optics Data

The GI Space Physics Group publishes real-time optics data over Alaska at the following website:


Magnetometer Archive Data

To download magnetometer data by location and date, please visit the magnetometer archive.


Citing Magnetometer Data

Cite data in publications such as journal papers, articles, presentations, posters, and websites. Please send copies of, or links to, published works citing data, imagery, or tools accessed through RCS to with "New Publication" on subject line.

Format Example
Magnetometer data, Geophysical Institute, UAF [year of data acquisition]. Retrieved from Research Computing Systems [day month year of data access]. Magnetometer data, Geophysical Institute, UAF 2016. Retrieved from Research Computing Systems 5 October 2016.