Insights into the physics of space weather that disrupts cell phones and creates Earthly havoc

Watts Up With That?

From the American Physical Society News from the 2014 APS Division of Plasma Physics Meeting

Each second, the sun hurls millions of tons of hot, charged plasma gas into space. This volatile “solar wind” buffets the magnetosphere, the magnetic field that surrounds the Earth, and can whip up geomagnetic storms that disrupt cell phone service, damage satellites and blackout power grids. Precise predictions of such outbursts could prompt measures to cope with them, just as forecasts here on Earth warn of approaching hurricanes and thunderstorms.

Caption: Clockwise from upper left are: computer simulation of the solar wind in contact with the Earth’s magnetosphere, magnetosphere simulation experiment at Columbia University, computer visualization of turbulent plasma currents in Swarthmore plasma wind tunnel (experiment at bottom right), magnetic surfaces overlaid on merging plasma with reconnection, and spectrogram showing interaction of magnetic waves in the UCLA Large Plasma Device. Credit: M. Yamada, J. Yoo…

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