Solar Storms

The term 'Solar Storm' has become popular as a way to describe bursts of matter and energy from the sun. Some of these are solar flares, which produce explosions of electromagnetic energy traveling at the speed of light (x-rays etc). Other kinds of solar storms involve ejections of matter traveling at millions of miles per hour. Scientists call this patina of solar storminess 'Space Weather'. Space weather can cause all sorts of problems on Earth with our technology. For more information, visit the Human Impacts of Space Weather and Solar Storms website at, for detailed discussions of these important consequences.

  1. What is the ionosphere composed of?
  2. Where are the Van Allen radiation belts and are they important to life?
  3. How are sun spots related to Earth's weather?
  4. Why does the Earth have radiation belts?
  5. What is the average density of solar wind particles that produce the aurora?
  6. How much mass does the Earth gain from the solar wind?
  7. How can I pick up solar activity on my short-wave radio?
  8. Are solar magnetic storms expected to be at a high point this year?
  9. Would the solar wind knock a planet off its orbit if the planet didn't have a magnetic field?
  10. Will my computer crash because of a solar storm?
  11. How can I find out of there is a solar storm going on right now?
  12. Is another major sunspot cycle coming?
  13. How does the solar wind affect the Earth?
  14. What effect do solar flares have on computer chips?
  15. Why doesn't the solar wind push the Earth out of orbit?
  16. Is the solar wind a problem for astronauts?
  17. What is the predicted solar activity for the next 6 months in 1997?
  18. What are solar storms and how do they affect the Earth?
  19. How do sunspots affect radio propagation on the Earth?
  20. What part of the solar cycle are we in right now in 1997?
  21. How does the Sun's rotation cause sunspots and magnetic field reversals?
  22. Was there an explosion on the Sun in January, 1997 that will affect the weather?
  23. If the solar wind can't rearrange the dust on the Moon, why does it blast dust from comets?

All answers are provided by Dr. Sten Odenwald (NASA/Raytheon)