Number 406 (Story #3), December 11, 1998 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein|
SPACE WEATHER EXERTS ITSELF IN SEVERAL WAYS. Here are two examples, from reports given at this week's "American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, of how a hurricane of particles from the sun can push things around here at Earth. First, Geoffrey Reeves of Los Alamos described new data recorded by a number of orbiting spacecraft which suggests that Earth's own magnetic field is more important than the solar wind in supplying electrons and whipping them to high speeds in the Van Allen belts. Electron energies and densities in the belts change too quickly, Reeves argued, to be responding directly to solar eruptions. Another report, delivered by Thomas Moore of NASA Goddard, confirmed with new observations by the Polar satellite the idea that blasts of solar wind can greatly enhance the escape of oxygen, helium, and hydrogen ions from Earth's upper atmosphere. This exodus of ions contributes to near-Earth space storms and promotes a charge buildup on nearby spacecraft.