When Nature Strikes: Space Weather
When people think of natural disasters, they tend to think of earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes. But Sarah Gibson, an astrophysicist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research is more concerned about a phenomenon called space weather, that begins on the Sun millions of miles from Earth, and could mean lights out for the entire world.
Space Weather is the term scientists use to describe the ever changing conditions in space. Explosions on the Sun create storms of radiation, fluctuating magnetic fields, and swarms of energetic particles. These phenomena travel outward through the solar system with the solar wind. Upon arrival at Earth, they interact in complex ways with Earth's magnetic field, creating Earth's radiation belts and the aurora. Some space weather storms can damage satellites, disable electric power grids, and disrupt cell phone communications systems.
Scientists like Sarah Gibson are studying the behavior of the Sun to help warn against a serious solar storm should it threaten Earth. "When Nature Strikes" is produced by NBC Learn in partnership with the National Science Foundation.
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