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Scientists have identified a plasma plume that naturally protects the Earth against solar storms. Earth's magnetic field, or magnetosphere, stretches from the planet's core out into space, where it meets the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted by the sun. For the most part, the magnetosphere acts as a shield to protect Earth from this high-energy solar activity. But when this field comes into contact with the sun's magnetic field -- a process called "magnetic reconnection" -- powerful electrical currents from the sun can stream into Earth's atmosphere, whipping up geomagnetic storms and space weather phenomena that can affect high-altitude aircraft, as well as astronauts on the International Space Station. Now scientists have identified a process in Earth's magnetosphere that reinforces its shielding effect, keeping incoming solar energy at bay.

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