Once upon a time, back in the twentieth century, the weather was straightforward: it rained or snowed, skies were sunny or cloudy. However, in the twenty-first century—the era of globalization and digitalization—a whole new kind weather is critical to consider: space weather.
Space weather is direct product of our local star, the Sun. The Sun continuously sheds its skin, blowing a fierce wind of charged particles in all directions, including Earth's. From time to time, storms on the Sun's surface—solar flares, coronal mass ejections—toss off added masses of energy and ions. When that turbulence slams into Earth, it produces space weather. The consequences can be spectacular, from colorful auroras to satellite, power and communications failures.
Space weather isn't new: the Sun has buffeted Earth with solar particles since the planet first formed. What has changed is society. This feature reveals how our increasing use of satellite technology has made us vulnerable to solar storms, and how solar scientists—“space weathermen”—are learning how to predict and forecast the Sun’s activity.
Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History. Find out more about Science Bulletins at amnh.org/sciencebulletins/.
The Sun-Earth Connection: Heliophysics Solar Storm and Space Weather
NASA Science: Magnetospheres
Classifying Solar Eruptions
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory