A constant stream of particles and electromagnetic waves streams from the sun toward Earth, which is surrounded by a protective bubble called the magnetosphere. Many areas of scientific research -- Earth's weather, ocean currents, the outpouring of magnetic energy from the sun -- require mapping out the large scale features of a complex system and its intricate details simultaneously. Describing such systems accurately, relies on numerous kinds of input, beginning with observations of the system, incorporating mathematical equations to approximate those observations, running computer simulations to attempt to replicate observations, and cycling back through all the steps to refine and improve the models until they jibe with what's seen.
Understanding the sun and how the material and energy it sends out affects the solar system is crucial, since it creates a dynamic space weather system that can disrupt human technology in space such as communications and global positioning system (GPS) satellites. However, the sun and its prodigious stream of solar particles, called the solar wind, can be particularly tricky to model since as the material streams to the outer reaches of the solar system it carries along its own magnetic fields. Such metaphorical descriptions are based on what instruments in space have, in fact, observed when they see magnetic waves go by in the solar wind.
To his surprise, the equations Roberts devised matched what was observed more closely than he'd expected. Of course, having an equation doesn't yet tell us the reason why the waves in the solar wind are shaped in this way. This is a view of the moon transiting, or passing in front of, the Sun as seen from the STEREO-B spacecraft on Feb.
With the moon as the most prominent object in the night sky and a major source of an invisible pull that creates ocean tides, many ancient cultures thought it could also affect our health or state of mind a€“ the word "lunacy" has its origin in this belief. The solar wind is a thin stream of electrically conducting gas called plasma that's constantly blown off the surface of the Sun in all directions at around a million miles per hour. These phenomena have been seen as far as 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles) above the moon and generate a kind of turbulence in the solar wind ahead of the moon, causing subtle changes in the solar wind's direction and density. Computer simulations help explain these observations by showing that a complex electric field near the lunar surface is generated by sunlight and the flow of the solar wind.
The research is described in a series of six papers recently published by Poppe, Halekas, and their colleagues at NASA Goddard, U.C.
Sunspots are dark areas on the Sun's surface with relatively low temperatures (compared with other parts of the Sun) and strong magnetic fields. Illustration of the influence on the Earth's magnetic field when solar wind approaches the Earth. A geomagnetic storm occurs when a violent solar wind hits the Earth and severely distorts the Earth's magnetic field.
As space weather originates from the Sun, it is monitored by international space weather centres using special satellites or telescopes.
Ultimately, the models successfully help scientists describe, and even predict, how the system works. The magnetic forces add an extra set of laws to incorporate when trying to determine what's governing the movement. You might think of it like a jump rope twirling, always the same distance from center, but nonetheless able to be in many places in space.


But it turns out that the equations to describe this kind of movement -- equations necessary to advance scientific models of the entire system -- were not easily found.
But magnetic fields have additional constraints on what shapes and configurations are even possible. Not only did the equations show waves of constant amplitude, but they also showed occasional random jumps and sharp changes -- an unexplained feature seen in the observations themselves. Nonetheless, equations that describe how the waves move open the door to increasingly accurate simulations that may well help explain such causes. Now, a powerful combination of spacecraft and computer simulations is revealing that the moon does indeed have a far-reaching, invisible influence a€“ not on us, but on the Sun, or more specifically, the solar wind. When a particularly fast, dense or turbulent solar wind strikes Earth's magnetic field, it can generate magnetic and radiation storms that are capable of disrupting satellites, power grids, and communication systems.
Earth is in the middle of the image, surrounded by its magnetic field, represented by purple lines.
The electron beams were first seen by NASA's Lunar Prospector mission, while the Japanese Kaguya mission, the Chinese Chang'e mission, and the Indian Chandrayaan mission all saw ion plumes at low altitudes.
The simulation reveals this electric field can generate electron beams by accelerating electrons blasted from surface material by solar ultraviolet light. It generally refers to all solar activities such as sunspots and solar flares, and the effects they may have on the Earth. A solar cycle (also called a sunspot cycle) is an approximately 11-year period with increasing and decreasing sunspot numbers. Its occurrence is related to a sudden burst of electromagnetic waves and a vast amount of charged particles (mostly electrons) from the Sun.
Solar wind refers to this released energy in the form of charged particles at high speed, reaching several hundred kilometres per second. White lines represent the solar wind and the blue lines surrounding the Earth represent its magnetic field. Geomagnetic storms can seriously affect radio broadcasts and navigation systems, and paralyze electric grids on Earth. Indeed, until now, equations for certain aspects of the solar wind have never been successfully devised to correlate to the observations seen by instruments in space.
Another way scientists have envisioned the waves is as a "random walk on a sphere." Again, always the same distance from a given center, but with a variable placement.
Roberts found a way to overlap numerous waves of different wavelengths in such a way that they ultimately made the variation in amplitude as small as possible.
The magnetic "bubble" surrounding Earth also pushes back on the solar wind, creating a bow shock tens of thousands of miles across over the day side of Earth where the solar wind slams into the magnetic field and abruptly slows from supersonic to subsonic speed. NASA's ARTEMIS mission has now also seen both the electron beams and the ion plumes, plus newly identified electromagnetic and electrostatic waves in the plasma ahead of the moon, at much greater distances from the moon.
Farrell is lead of the NASA Lunar Science Institute's Dynamic Response of the Environment At the Moon (DREAM) lunar science center, which contributed to the research.


Also, related simulations show that when ions in the solar wind collide with ancient, "fossil" magnetic fields in certain areas on the lunar surface, they are reflected back into space in a diffuse, fountain-shaped pattern. Los Angeles, and the University of Colorado at Boulder in Geophysical Research Letters and the Journal of Geophysical Research. These electromagnetic waves can affect telecommunications, radio broadcast and navigation system on Earth. While the magnetic field on the Earth (which traps charged particles encircling the Earth into radiation belts called the Van Allen belts) normally protects our planet from the solar wind, it may be deformed in the event of violent solar wind, resulting in a geomagnetic storm on Earth. During the great geomagnetic storm in 1989, electricity was suspended for 9 hours in Quebec and a number of American satellites were taken out of service. Auroras occur as a result of charged particles (mostly electrons) from the Sun colliding with gas particles in the Earth's atmosphere, producing a glow in different colours. Now, for the first time, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., has created a set of the necessary equations, published in Physical Review Letters on Dec.
NASA's STEREO mission consists of two spacecraft launched in October, 2006 to study solar storms. Recently, however, an international fleet of lunar-orbiting spacecraft has detected signs of the moon's presence "upstream" in the solar wind. Many energetic particles in the solar wind, represented in gold, are deflected by Earth's magnetic "shield".
These ions are mostly the positively charged ions (protons) of hydrogen atoms, the most common element in the solar wind.
The research was funded by NASA's Lunar Science Institute, which is managed at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and oversees the DREAM lunar science center.
The cycle numbering system dates back to the eighteenth century and the current solar cycle is cycle 23. Sometimes, charged particles can also endanger the operations of spacecraft and satellites in space, and expose astronauts to higher amounts of radiation. The last significant geomagnetic storm occurred in October 2003 when intense solar flares erupted from the Sun. The patterns and shapes of the aurora are related to the flow of charged particles and the magnetic fields. ARTEMIS stands for "Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moona€™s Interaction with the Sun". Among other incidents, the geomagnetic storm caused a Japanese communications satellite to shut down temporarily.
In respect of the auroral colour, oxygen molecules produce green and red colours while nitrogen molecules produce purplish-red and blue colours.



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