What is plasma?

Plasma is the fourth state of aggregation of matter (along with solid, liquid and gas) and is the most abundant in the universe (over 99% of the visible universe). Plasma is a superheated matter often thought of as a subset of gases, but the two states behave very differently. Like gases, plasmas have no fixed shape or volume, and are less dense than solids or liquids. Plasma is an ionised gas at high temperatures. At these temperatures, the electons are ripped away from the atoms forming an ionised gas.

In the laboratory, heating a gas, to an extremely high temperature, will form a plasma a mix of positively charged particles (ions) and negatively charged particles (electrons).

plasma sun

This loss of electrons in the atoms causes the gas to become electrically charged and susceptible to interaction with magnetic fields. In the night sky, it shines in the form of stars, nebulae and even the northern lights sometimes seen near the north and south poles. In the sun, its atmosphere is composed of plasma because the temperature reaches more than a million degrees Celsius.