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Space Weather: Effects in space

Artist impression of the Earth's bow shock. (c) UCL

Space Weather is the name we give to the effect the interaction between the Sun and the Earth has on our technology and society.The magnetosphere acts as a protective shield, stopping the majority of the Solar Energetic Particle radiation from the solar flares, and cosmic rays from the wider galaxy and beyond, from reaching the Earth. 

Even though it does a good job of protecting us, the magnetosphere isn't completely benign. It is home to the dangerous radiation belts, regions of space filled with highly energetic protons and electrons that are harmful to astronauts and can damage spacecraft. The radiation belts are much more dangerous in the hours and days after the magnetosphere has been hit by a coronal mass ejection or exposed to particularly strong solar wind. The orbit of the GPS constellation and Geosynchronous orbit, the location of the vast majority of communications satelites, are both within the outer radiation belt which makes them vulnerable during some space weather events.

Artist's impression of Earth's inner magnetosphere. (c) UCL

Page last modified on 06 sep 11 14:03