Related topics: nasa · earth · magnetic field · spacecraft · solar wind

'Space tsunami' causes the third Van Allen Belt

Earth's magnetosphere, the region of space dominated by Earth's magnetic field, protects our planet from the harsh battering of the solar wind. Like a protective shield, the magnetosphere absorbs and deflects plasma from ...

Scientists observe largest solar flare in 12 years

The sun's largest solar flare in more than 12 years – and the eighth largest since modern records began in 1996 – has been captured in high detail by a team of researchers from the University of Sheffield and Queen's ...

Solar storm heads Earth's way after double sun blasts

Two big explosions on the surface of the sun will cause a moderate to strong geomagnetic storm on Earth in the coming days, possibly disrupting radio and satellite communications, scientists said Thursday.

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Space weather

Space weather is the concept of changing environmental conditions in near-Earth space. It is distinct from the concept of weather within a planetary atmosphere, and deals with phenomena involving ambient plasma, magnetic fields, radiation and other matter in space. "Space weather" often implicitly means the conditions in near-Earth space within the magnetosphere, but it is also studied in interplanetary (and occasionally interstellar space).

Within our own solar system, space weather is greatly influenced by the speed and density of the solar wind and the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) carried by the solar wind plasma. A variety of physical phenomena are associated with space weather, including geomagnetic storms and substorms, energization of the Van Allen radiation belts, ionospheric disturbances and scintillation, aurora and geomagnetically induced currents at Earth's surface. Coronal Mass Ejections and their associated shock waves are also important drivers of space weather as they can compress the magnetosphere and trigger geomagnetic storms. Solar Energetic Particles, accelerated by coronal mass ejections or solar flares, are also an important driver of space weather as they can damage electronics onboard spacecraft through induced electric currents,[citation needed] and threaten the life of astronauts.

Space weather exerts a profound influence in several areas related to space exploration and development. Changing geomagnetic conditions can induce changes in atmospheric density causing the rapid degradation of spacecraft altitude in Low Earth orbit. Geomagnetic storms due to increased solar activity can potentially blind sensors aboard spacecraft, or interfere with on-board electronics. An understanding of space environmental conditions is also important in designing shielding and life support systems for manned spacecraft. There is also some concern that geomagnetic storms may also expose conventional aircraft flying at high latitudes to increased amounts of radiation.

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