The sun has made life on the innermost planets, Mercury and Venus, impossible, due to the intense radiation and colossal amounts of energetic material it blasts in every direction, creating the ever-changing conditions in space known as space weather.
Considering all of this, how did life come to thrive on Earth? Our magnetic field protects us from the solar wind — the constant stream of electrons, protons and heavier ions from the sun — and from coronal mass ejections (CMEs), the sun’s occasional outbursts of billion-ton clouds of solar plasma into space.
But the most extreme space weather events, arrivals of fast CMEs or high-speed solar-wind streams, disturb our protective magnetic shield, creating geomagnetic storms at Earth.
These storms have the potential to cause serious problems for modern technological systems, disrupting or damaging satellites in space and the multitude of services – like navigation and telecoms – that rely on them, blacking out power grids and radio communication and creating a radiation hazard for astronauts in space, even serving potentially harmful doses of radiation to astronauts on future missions to the moon or Mars.
Bottom line: Video explains space weather, especially solar wind and CMEs.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.