From National Geographic:
Clouds of charged particles stretch a quarter the way to the moon, experts say.
Clouds of “cold plasma” reach from the top of Earth’s atmosphere to at least a quarter the distance to the moon, according to new data from a cluster of European satellites.
Earth generates cold plasma—slow-moving charged particles—at the edge of space, where sunlight strips electrons from gas atoms, leaving only their positively charged cores, or nuclei.
Researchers had suspected these hard-to-detect particles might influence incoming space weather, such as this week’s solar flare and resulting geomagnetic storm. That’s because solar storms barrage Earth with similar but high-speed charged particles.
Still, no one could be certain what the effects of cold plasma might be without a handle on its true abundance around our planet.
“It’s like the weather forecast on TV. It’s very complicated to make a reasonable forecast without the basic variables,” said space scientist Mats André, of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics.
“Discovering this cold plasma is like saying, Oh gosh, there are oceans here that affect our weather,” he said.
Also, per a January 7, 2009 National Geographic article. ”Warm Plasma Cloak” Discovered Enveloping Earth”,
“The magnetosphere—the shield of ions and electrons that envelops Earth—extends far beyond the atmosphere, defending the planet from the harmful solar wind.
Charles “Rick” Chappell, a physicist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, led a research team that assembled information dating back decades to describe the new magnetosphere layer.
Some of the first hints of the cloak first showed up in data from research satellites in the early 1970s. The cloak was finally confirmed by NASA’s Polar satellite, which ended a 12-year run in April 2008.
The cloak’s discovery creates a theoretical home for particles that didn’t fit with any of the other understood parts of the Earth’s magnetosphere, Chappell said.”
Hat tip to WUWT regular Carla