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Solar & Heliospheric Physics

How does the Sun affect the heliosphere and the Earth?

On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth's magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing aurora to appear on the night of Monday, September 3. Picuted here is a lighten blended version of the 304 and 171 angstrom wavelengths. Cropped Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO NASA image use policy. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission. Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook Find us on Instagram

Figure 1: Magnificent CME Erupts on the Sun Image Credit: By NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, CC BY 2.0

The Sun is the main source of energy in our planetary system. Not only does it shine steadily as the source of visible light but it also has moments of burst-like activity. During these moments, huge explosions (Figure 1) happen in the Suns atmosphere called solar flares and coronal mass ejections. The magnetic energy stored in the solar magnetic fields is released in the form of energetic particles that can be observed in a number of exciting and dramatic phenomena seen as intense emission in a broad range: from X-rays down to radio frequencies.

Why do we need to study the Sun and the heliosphere?

Hot solar gas and fast particles continue to radiate in the interplanetary space, and finally, when the solar ejections reach the Earth they strongly disturb our planets environment. The consequences of solar activity are northern lights (aurora) normally seen in the polar regions of our planet, electric supply blackouts, satellite damage, and disruption to radio communications. Over the last decade, the Sun-Earth connection has become a key issue in space research. Understanding the lifetime evolution of the solar energetic particles from their birth at the Sun through life in space and their end at the Earth is therefore important to mankind as a practical issue. The observations of the radio emission with SKA will provide a unique tool to diagnose various phenomena at the Sun in the heliosphere.