There are two types of electrical currents: direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). Direct current flows in a single direction along wires. Alternating current flows back and forth, rapidly switching direction many times per second.
Click on image for full size
Direct Current (DC) & Alternating Current (AC) Electricity
There are two types of electrical currents that can flow through wires: direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC).
Direct current (DC) electricity flows in the same direction all the time through an electric circuit. The electrons that carry the electricity in a wire mostly move in one direction in a DC circuit. A flashlight with its batteries, bulb, and wires is a common example of a DC circuit.
The outlets in our homes provide alternating current (AC) electricity. The flow of electrons in an AC circuit switches direction very quickly - 60 times every second! The electrons first flow one way, then the other. However, the electrical devices we use don't care which direction the electrons are moving, since the same amount of current flows through a circuit regardless of the direction of the current.
Electric power distribution networks which deliver electricity to our homes are set up to handle alternating current electricity. Space weather storms can cause flows of direct current electricity in the electrical power grid. Since the grid was designed to used AC electricity but not DC electricity, the space weather induced direct currents can damage or destroy some types of equipment, such as voltage transformers.
You might also be interested in:
Space weather "storms" can cause problems on Earth. They can even mess up our systems that make electricity. They can also damage the wires and other equipment used to deliver electricity to peoples' houses....more
We get electricity in our homes and schools from our electrical power system. Did you know that space weather storms can mess up the power system? When that happens, people are left without electricity....more
Space weather causes electricity to flow in our atmosphere. Sometimes that electricity lights up the sky! It causes the aurora (the Southern and Northern Lights). The electric currents in the atmosphere...more
There are two types of electrical currents that can flow through wires: direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC). Direct current (DC) electricity flows in the same direction all the time through...more
Sometimes a whole electric power system shuts down. This can happen after a strong space weather storm. It is hard to get the whole system running again after it has been shut down all the way. The main...more
Radiation can damage electronic circuits. Radiation can also cause electronics to malfunction. Radiation can damage the materials used in electronics over time. That can make the electronics wear out sooner....more
The force of magnetism causes material to point along the direction the magnetic force points. Here's another picture of how this works. This picture shows where the magnetic poles of the Earth are to...more