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Space Storms

August 4, 2009

Space storms bombard the planet Mercury.


Forecasting in space. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Spacecraft don’t have to worry about rain or wind. But they do have to contend with space weather: a mix of charged particles and radiation boiling from the sun. It can include violent solar flares and coronal mass ejections that can damage spacecraft, threaten astronauts, and even cause electrical blackouts here on earth. NASA Physicist Jim Slavin studies space weather, and is currently co-investigator on the MESSENGER mission to the planet Mercury.

For people who study space weather of the earth, going to Mercury is a little bit like going to the Gulf of Mexico during hurricane season. It’s the planet in the solar system that’s most heavily affected by solar radiation.

He says that as we become more dependent on communications, global positioning and research satellites, understanding space weather becomes increasingly important. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.