It’s difficult to comprehend the size and sheer power of our Sun, a churning ball of hot gas 1.3 million times larger than Earth that dominates our Solar System. Unpredictable and temperamental, it blasts intense radiation and colossal amounts of energetic material in every direction, creating the ever-changing conditions in space known as ‘space weather’.
The solar wind is a constant stream of electrons, protons and stripped-down atoms emitted by the Sun, while coronal mass ejections are the Sun’s periodic outbursts of colossal clouds of solar plasma. The most extreme of these events disturb Earth’s protective magnetic field, creating geomagnetic storms at our planet.
These storms can 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, and blacking out power grids and radio communication. They can even serve potentially harmful doses of radiation to astronauts on future missions to the Moon or Mars.