Jean Lilensten, Laurent Lamy, Carine Briand, Mathieu Barthélémy, Baptiste Cecconi
This article presents a plasma physics experiment which makes it possible to produce polar lights. The experiment, named Planeterrella, involves shooting electrons onto a magnetised sphere placed in a vacuum chamber. Inspired by Kristian Birkeland’s Terrella, but with several different configurations and technical improvements, the experiment allows the user to simulate and visualise simple geophysical and astrophysical situations. Several Planeterrellas are now used across Europe and the USA. The design of the original experiment and the expertise of its first authors are shared freely with any public institute and are outlined in this article.