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0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff8cd30001A blog featuring the work and work life of NHPR's interns and fellows.

One Of These Space Weather Events Is Not Like The Others

As welearned from Joe Hanson, space weather can be an amazing thing. As receiving real-time space weather forecasts is becoming more of a reality, it would be good to familiarize yourself with some of the weather events you can expect to see. We’ve compiled a list to test your space weather knowledge. All of these events sound fantastic and have been the fodder for many a Sci-Fi plot, but do you know which one of these 4 space weather events isn’t real?

Solar Storms: Usually the result of solar eruptions which send super-hot plasma whirling through space, solar storm is a generic term used for any space weather like solar flares or Coronal Mass Ejections. Another solar weather event, solar wind, sends protons and electrons flying out from the surface of the Sun and is accelerated at extremely high speeds. These types of weather events usually interfere with Earth technology, though engineers are working to protect against solar interference.  

Geomagnetic Storms: As solar wind picks up, Earth’s magnetic fields can suffer disturbances. The main causes of these storms are Coronal Mass Ejections and the resulting magnetic disturbance of the Sun’s magnetic material being spewed into space. When this material interacts with Earth’s magnetosphere, it stretches the side of the magnetosphere facing away from the Sun and causes it to release energy through magnetic reconnection. We usually experience geomagnetic storms through disturbances in our upper atmosphere, the ionosphere, and disruptions of communication technologies.

Space Wind: A constant flow of charged particles is always moving above us in our magnetosphere. This breeze results when particles from the plasmasphere – a cool donut shaped zone of cold, dense plasma – escape and move further out into our magnetosphere. This flow also increases and decreases with other space weather events, as Earth’s gravity is not strong enough to completely regulate the flow of plasma. It is probable that other planets have winds like this which push some of their atmospheric material into the space surrounding them.

Wookiee Tornado: A little known fact about Sharknado: it was inspired by this freak space weather event. Overtaken by a vast storm originating from the magnetic field surrounding its system’s central star, the indigenous species on Kashyyyk were thrown into a vast wind tunnel, casting them out into space. Believing the Wookiee was too lovable a creature, the producers at the Sy-Fy channel changed to sharks, who they believed humans would not feel badly about being literally whipped into a frenzy.

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