Shop Windows to the Universe

We now offer the Cool It! card game in our Science Store. Cool It! is the new card game from UCS that teaches kids about the choices we have when it comes to climate change.
The Ulysses spacecraft studies the Sun.
NASA

How Scientists Study Space Weather

Scientists combine various techniques to study space weather. Earth-based and orbiting telescopes constantly observe the Sun in many different wavelengths. Both satellites and ground-based instruments contribute readings of space weather features such as particle densities, magnetic field strengths, and radiation intensities. Scientists develop complex mathematical models based on the laws of physics to predict behaviors of space weather systems. Space physicists have also developed metrics, such as sunspot counts, to quantitatively describe variations in space weather.

Because of the complexity of space weather systems, scientists often use models to try to understand and predict the systems. Some models describe the Sun, others interplanetary space, and still others cover the Earth's magnetosphere or its upper atmosphere. Sophisticated computer software crunches the numbers generated by these models so scientists can compare their predictions with observed events.

We have only been making direct observations of the Sun and space weather phenomena using telescopes, satellites, and other sophisticated instruments for a relatively short period of time. The Sun, however, has been around for several billion years. Scientist use various "proxy" techniques to estimate levels of solar and space weather activity in prehistoric times and in more recent eras prior to the space age.

Last modified August 12, 2008 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, as well as books on science education!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

The Magnetic Field

The force of magnetism causes material to point along the direction the magnetic force points. This property implies that the force of magnetism has a direction. As shown in the diagram to the left, the...more

Radiation

Radiation comes in two basic types: electromagnetic radiation transmitted by photons, and particle radiation consisting of electrons, protons, alpha particles, and so forth. Electromagnetic radiation,...more

Sunspots

Sunspots are dark, planet-sized regions that appear on the "surface" of the Sun. Sunspots are "dark" because they are cooler than their surroundings. A large sunspot might have a central temperature of...more

Modeling Space Weather

Scientists who study space weather make extensive use of computer models to make sense of complex phenomena. This is a way in which space weather is quite similar to Earthly weather, for weather forecasters...more

Space Weather throughout the Solar System

The Sun is surrounded by a "bubble" in space called the heliosphere. In a sense, we Earthlings live within the outer atmosphere of our Sun. The solar wind fills the heliosphere with energetic...more

The Earth's Magnetosphere

The Earth has a magnetic field with north and south poles. The magnetic field of the Earth is enclosed in a region surrounding the Earth called the magnetosphere. As the Earth rotates, its hot core generates...more

The Thermosphere

The thermosphere is a layer of Earth's atmosphere. The thermosphere is directly above the mesosphere and below the exosphere. It extends from about 90 km (56 miles) to between 500 and 1,000 km (311 to...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA