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Big Questions

Matter in Extreme Conditions

Plasmas, the fourth phase of matter (after solid, liquid, and gas), are responsible for the glowing clouds of matter we see in extreme conditions. Though on Earth almost everything we encounter is a solid, liquid, or gas, plasmas actually comprise 99% of the visible universe. A plasma is made when the electrons are separated from the outer atomic orbitals of a material, creating a sea of ions and moving charges. Stars are the most common example of plasma, but examples you may be familiar with include lightning, the hot stuff in neon signs, and the Aurora Borealis.


A service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/GSFC

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