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Under The Weather

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Here on Earth, we are subject to the whims of weather as it walks across the planet. Such phenomena is not known only on Earth, but a variety of weather can be found on several planets in our very own solar system. What some people might not realise is that weather can also be found in space itself. Weather in space? Really?

Yes, really! While space doesn’t have air, it can still have certain forms of weather thanks to the Sun. From the sun, solar winds, solar flares, and plasma are tossed out into space which can actually affect spacecrafts that are sent to explore our solar system. Because of this, radiation can actually harm whatever scientist send beyond our atmosphere. A study of space weather can actually help scientists determine ways to protect spacecraft from damage. In space, a variety of ‘weather’ can affect the finely tuned instruments. Besides radiation, damage can occur when charged particles stop on the outside or even the inside of a spacecraft. This type of event is called “spacecraft charging”.

Certain types of space weather can also affect what happens here on earth. When magnetic surveys are conducted via aircraft, the rapid magnetic field variations during geomagnetic storms can have an impact on the interpretation of the data being collected.

Combine these with other types of weather such as coronal mass ejections (when huge amounts of plasma as well as magnetic fields are ejected from the sun), radiation belts and galactic cosmic rays, space weather is a lot more dynamic than one might think.

Want to learn more about space weather? Check out NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center and Space Weather @ NASA.

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