FOUR IDENTICAL SPACECRAFT STUDYING HOW THE SOLAR WIND AFFECTS THE EARTH

SPACE WEATHER RESOURCES

This site brings you many Space Weather resources and programs, sounds and games which you may use in your home or school. Created with primary funding from the NASA IMAGE and Magnetospheric MultiScale missions, and with additional funding from NSF under the Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling, and the Center for Space Environment Modeling , there is material and games appropriate to all ages. For the most up-to-date information about the IMAGE program, see the IMAGE web sites at Goddard Space Flight Center or at the Southwest Research Institute. Additional information about MMS can be found at SWRI and at Rice University.

"Space Weather" is the study of the conditions, powered by the Sun, which can harm both humans and equipment in space, and cause electrical disruptions on the Earth. A solar flare can launch a Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME, which expands into space. A shock wave forms as the faster, denser CME pushes the slower, less dense solar wind ahead of it. The CME expands as it leaves the Sun, eventually becoming over 50 million km across by the time it sweeps over Earth. Upstream monitors such as ACE can give us a very accurate warning of storms, but only give us a one-hour forecast time. So groups such as the Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling study the conditions on the Sun and model these enormous CME's as they come "from Sun to Mud".

The magnetopause, the boundary between the Earth's field and the solar wind, becomes compressed and very dynamic during these events, but generally can keep the dangerous particles well away from Earth except at the polar regions. The aurora, as seen in ultraviolet by IMAGE and Polar , becomes very bright, with the auroral oval becoming very large. You can see from this movie that the aurora is nearly the same in both hemispheres. The ring current, which is formed energetic particles encircling the Earth, becomes very intense and forms a complete circle. A major space event can lead to loss of spacecraft by the atmosphere heating up and expanding, causing additional spacecraft drag; by energetic particles causing failures of spacecraft systems and even harming astronauts and passsengers on polar-flying aircraft; disruption of radio communication; and even the possibility of electrical blackouts from induced electric currents. (These animations, based on simulations of the storm of April 2002, were provided by the Center for Space Environment Modeling at the University of Michigan). Spacecraft such as IMAGE can monitor space weather; ACE can measure the solar wind to help us predict its impact; and Cluster can help us understand the small-scale, highly variable processes that control the linkage between the Earth's environment to the solar wind. The MMS mission will extend the multi-spacecraft exploration of the Earth's boundaries, and magnetic reconnection that is crucial for energy transfer between the Sun and Earth.

At NASA, this area of research is funded by the Sun-Earth Connections Theme of the Science Missions Directorate at NASA, as well as the "Living with a Star" program. In addition, many other agencies (notably NSF, NOAA, the Air Force and DOE) also support research in this area. The most visible part of space weather is the aurora, and the software shown here has many images and movies of this spectacular natural process, plus explanations of how it is generated. The Sun, even though we are at solar minimum, can still at times cause auroras in the "lower 48", and spacecraft and power disruptions may occur. At Rice University we have many exciting research programs in space weather at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Check the websites for the Physics and Astronomy Department and the Rice Space Institute for more details. For a "stoplight" showing the condition of today's space weather (green is quiet) go to http://mms.rice.edu/realtime/dials.html; for a plot of the Boyle Index, an excellent predictor of space weather events, go to http://mms.rice.edu/realtime/wind.html. If the Boyle index goes above 200 for an extended time, severe storms are very likely! Send an email to spacalrt: subscribe@mailman.rice.edu to get on the storm notice list!

"Cindi in Space" Comic Book

The CINDI project from the University of Texas at Dallas has a super comic book explaining the flow of neutrals and ions in the Earth's upper atmosphere. They have a color version and a black and white version (suitable for coloring)! Check their web site for more Cindi comics.

Exploration of the Earth's Magnetosphere

The history and physics of Sun-Earth Connections, from David Stern at Goddard Space Flight Center. To get the most recent additions and links to other educational sites, go to http://www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/Education/Intro.html or to his new site at http://www.phy6.org/

The Great Magnet, the Earth

This is a short history of studies of the Earth's magnetism, marking the 400th anniversary of Gilbert's book "De Magnete." Developed by David Stern at the Goddard Space Flight Center. To get more recent additions and links to other educational sites, go to http://www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/earthmag/demagint.htm or to his new site at http://www.phy6.org/

POETRY

The POETRY site is the IMAGE mission web site for public outreach and education, with many teacher resources, student activities etc.

INSPIRE

INSPIRE is a non-profit scientific, educational corporation whose objective is to bring the excitement of observing natural and manmade radio waves in the audio region to high school students.

Space Weather Monitors

The Stanford Solar Center has created simple space weather monitors you can build! Every country in the United Nations will get at least one "AWESOME" or "SID" monitor to let students see the ionospheric disturbances associated with space weather! Check out their web site for an instruction manual to make your own!

SOUNDS

To get more information on recorded sounds of Earth's natural radio emissions that occur in the extremely-low-frequency to very-low-frequency (ELF-VLF) radio spectrum, go directly to the VLF Radio Signals pages on the INSPIRE web site.