Magnetic fields surround magnetic materials and electric currents and are detected by the force they exert on other magnetic materials and moving electric charges. The magnetic field at any given point is specified by both a direction and a magnitude (or strength); as such it is a vector field. In nature, magnetic fields are produced in the rarefied gas of space, in the glowing heat of sunspots and in the molten core of the Earth. It was basically a force between electric currents: two parallel currents in the same direction attract, in oposite directions repel. Such magnetism must be produced by electric currents, but finding how those currents are produced remains a major challenge. Only a few of the phenomena observed on the ground come from the magnetosphere: fluctuations of the magnetic field known as magnetic storms and substorms, and the polar aurora or “northern lights,” appearing in the night skies of places like Alaska and Norway. Satellites in space, however, sense much more: radiation belts, magnetic structures, fast streaming particles and processes which energize them. All these are described in the sections that follow.
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