Institute for Scientific Research
Boston College

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do we care about space weather?

Why do we study Space Weather?

Space weather happens with a solar storm from the Sun travels through space and impacts the Earth’s magnetosphere. Just like we have weather on Earth that predicts sunshine, wind, clouds, rain, snow, sleet, etc, in space, weather is just as dynamic with solar winds, electromagnetic particle "rains" and radiation of different kinds bombarding the planets, moons, and spacecraft such as our satellites. Just as Earth weather can do damage to homes and other property and disrupt our lives, space weather can cause damage to satellites, create beautiful auroras, and affect our communications, navigation, and power systems, disrupting our lives. Therefore, studying space weather is important to our national economy because solar storms can affect the advanced technology we have become so dependent upon in our everyday lives. Scientists around the world use data from spacecraft and ground-based instruments to monitor space weather patterns - magnetospheric storms and substorms - in hopes of one day being able to predict space weather. If we knew two days earlier that a large space storm was headed our way, we could close down any satellite in the path of the storm and give them better protection from the radiation, reduce the power output of large electrical power companies on Earth and be able to protect some of their expensive power grid components. Just think about it how much safer space shuttle missions could be if the astronauts knew before takeoff that they would have "good weather" for their trip. Assume our future space weather prediction model predict a very bad space storm on the last day of astronauts mission on space, the shuttle could come back to Earth a day early so that our astronauts would then be safe. Generally, knowing what kind of space weather occurs regularly will help scientists to build better, more protected satellites, spacecraft, and power grids. This is a very important field of science that is still in its infancy. Just as Earth weather predictions get better with newer programs, more observations, and better models, someday getting a space weather report may be just as easy as turning on your television or radio.