Shop Windows to the Universe

Arches National Park Geology Tour provides an extensive, visually rich description of the geology of Arches, by Deborah Ragland, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
A fluxgate magnetometer for measuring magnetic fields.
Image courtesy the Auroral Observatory of the University of Tromso, Norway.

Instruments & Techniques for Space Weather Measurements

Scientists use a broad array of techniques and instruments to make the measurements needed for space weather investigations.

Telescopic observations via spacecraft and ground-based observatories provide us with spectacular images of the Sun and the solar atmosphere. These observations are not confined to visible light, but range across the electromagnetic spectrum from radio wave and infrared (IR) images to ultraviolet (UV) and X-ray views. A technique called helioseismology allows us to probe the Sun's interior by watching pressure waves ripple across the photosphere. Coronagraphs create artificial eclipses which give us great views of the Sun's atmosphere. Spectroscopy allows us to study the elemental composition of the Sun and provides information about temperature and magnetic field strength.

The Sun emits various types of electromagnetic radiation and subatomic particles. Some types generate secondary cascades of particles when they crash into the gases in Earth's atmosphere. Radiation sensors, plasma wave detectors, and similar instruments on spacecraft and the ground measure the flux of protons, electrons, ions, neutrinos, and other types of radiation.

Optical techniques, broadly defined to include IR and UV "light", also aid studies of near-Earth "geospace". Images and spectroscopic studies help us understand the auroras, while extreme UV images from satellites reveal the structure of Earth's plasmasphere.

Techniques and instruments employing radio waves help us probe the electrically charged layers of Earth's atmosphere collectively referred to as the ionosphere. Radars and antenna arrays called riometers allow us to determine which radio waves pass through, get absorbed by, and bounce off specific layers of the ionosphere.

Magnetometers detect the orientation and measure the strength of magnetic fields. A network of ground-based magnetometers tracks Earth's magnetic field. Magnetometers aboard orbiting satellites monitor magnetic fields in near-Earth space; magnetometers on interplanetary spacecraft measure fields in deep space.

Last modified September 8, 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, ranging from seismology, rocks and minerals, oceanography, and Earth system science to astronomy!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

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

Ground-based Observations of Space Weather

Some observations of space weather phenomena are made by spacecraft. Other observations are made from the ground on or near the surface of Earth. Spacecraft have certain advantages, such as being able...more

The Photosphere - the "Surface" of the Sun

Most of the energy we receive from the Sun is the visible (white) light emitted from the photosphere. The photosphere is one of the coolest regions of the Sun (6000 K), so only a small fraction (0.1%)...more

Solar Eclipses

An eclipse of the Sun occurs when the Earth passes through the Moon's shadow. A total eclipse of the Sun takes place only during a new moon, when the Moon is directly between the Sun and the Earth and...more

Element (Chemical Element)

An element (also called a "chemical element") is a substance made up entirely of atoms having the same atomic number; that is, all of the atoms have the same number of protons. Hydrogen, helium, oxygen,...more

The Sun's Magnetic Field

The Sun has a very large and very complex magnetic field. The magnetic field at an average place on the Sun is around 1 Gauss, about twice as strong as the average field on the surface of Earth (around...more

Electromagnetic Radiation

Electromagnetic radiation is the result of oscillating electric and magnetic fields. The wave of energy generated by such vibrations moves through space at the speed of light. And well it should... for...more

Particle Radiation

One main type of radiation, particle radiation, is the result of subatomic particles hurtling at tremendous speeds. Protons, cosmic rays, and alpha and beta particles are some of the most common types...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF