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The Earth's magnetosphere as depicted by a computer model, showing a geomagnetic storm in January 1997.
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Image courtesy of the Space Plasma Physics group (with help from the Advanced Visualization Laboratory) at University of Maryland.

Modeling Space Weather

Scientists who study space weather use models a lot. Just what is a model? It is a simplified way of looking at something very complicated. You may be familiar with a globe. It is a model of the Earth. It has some things that are the same as the actual Earth, like where continents are in relation to the oceans. But, it also differs in some ways - like size!

Scientists who study space weather use their computers a lot to make models of space weather. They fine tune their model each time they get new data.

That way, the models get better and better. They can even be used for forecasting and prediction of space weather events. For example, if we observe a big flare from the Sun, a model can predict what its impact will be near Earth. If need be, we can warn spacewalking astronauts, put satellites into "safe" modes, and look forward to great auroral lights.

Last modified January 27, 2010 by Randy Russell.

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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