September 4, 2018

E9 – Inside the Boiling Center of the Solar System

Posted by Shane Hanlon

The dark circle of Venus crosses the face of the Sun, seen in three wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. Credit: NASA/SDO/Peter L. Dove

At the heart of our solar system is an enormous, churning ball of hot plasma. The Sun blows a stream of charged particles over our planet, creating the solar wind. Sometimes the Sun flares bursts of x-rays, or burps bursts of charged particles, which can sweep over Earth and potentially create havoc for power grids, satellites, and GPS networks. There is weather in space, and it has more consequences for civilization than you might think.

Solar physicist Dan Seaton studies the Sun at the University of Colorado in Boulder and NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, where he is working to understand the Sun’s atmosphere and predict when events on the Sun will affect the near-Earth environment. In this episode, Dan explains how space weather and space weather prediction is analogous to Earth weather—and how it is not—and how what happens on the Sun can affect us here on Earth.

Read a new paper by Dan and his colleagues about how solar flares disrupted radio communications during the September 2017 Atlantic hurricane relief effort.