Scientists Say: Space weather

This phrase refers to the conditions on the sun and in space that can affect life on Earth


This is an image of a coronal mass ejection — a spurt of plasma, or hot, charged particles from the sun. These spurts are one part of space weather, which can affect life on Earth. 


Space weather (noun, “SPAY-s WEH-thur”)

This phrase describes conditions in the atmosphere far above Earth and around the sun. This weather doesn’t produce clouds, rain or snow. But it can still have a big impact on our lives. Space weather can come from the solar wind — vast gusts of electrically charged particles — produced by our sun. The sun can also spurt out sudden bursts called coronal mass ejections. These are great bursts of plasma and magnetic fields. The charged particles from solar winds can interact with the charged particles in our ionosphere — the upper part of our atmosphere. The magnetic fields from coronal mass ejections can also mix with Earth’s own magnetic fields. These interactions can produce “storms” of electricity. That electricity can damage satellites or overload power lines and cause blackouts.

In a sentence

Space weather is what gives the Northern Lights their intensely colorful hues.

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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