The magnetopause is the abrupt boundary between a magnetosphere and the surrounding plasma. For planetary science, the magnetopause is the boundary between the planet's magnetic field and the solar wind. The location of the magnetopause is determined by the balance between the pressure of the dynamic planetary magnetic field and the dynamic pressure of the solar wind. As the solar wind pressure increases and decreases, the magnetopause moves inward and outward in response. Waves (ripples and flapping motion) along the magnetopause move in the direction of the solar wind flow in response to small-scale variations in the solar wind pressure and to Kelvin–Helmholtz instability.
The solar wind is supersonic and passes through a bow shock where the direction of flow is changed so that most of the solar wind plasma is deflected to either side of the magnetopause, much like water is deflected before the bow of a ship. The zone of shocked solar wind plasma is the magnetosheath. At Earth an