Space Weather Center Interactives
The Sun-Earth Connection
visitors enter the exhibition, they are greeted by a large (3' x
6') photomural of an active Sun and the comet-shaped magnetic region
surrounding Earth, called the magnetosphere. This central element
includes a striking visual simulation of solar convection and the
solar wind flowing from the Sun and around Earth's magnetosphere.
The mural is backlit and activated by a push button.
glow inside this sphere comes from plasma -- an electrified gas,
sometimes referred to as the fourth state of matter. In this state,
gas can conduct electricity: those "lightning bolts" show
visitors where the electricity flows. Plasma is rare on Earth (it's
in candle flames, neon signs, fuorescent lights) but incredibly
common in outer space, where it's 99% of what we can see in the
magnetic fields can generate electrical currents. When Earth's magnetic
field is changed by space weather, currents may be generated in
electrical power grids, sometimes causing blackouts. Visitors can
spin a magnet and slide it inside of a wire coil. The changing magnetic
field causes an electrical current to flow in the coil. Red and
green lights flash alternately, each indicating a different direction
of current flow.
electrical currents flow towards Earth's poles, causing the aurora.
Earth's magnetic field helps shape the aurora into beautiful curtains
of light that dance across the night sky. Like the aurora, the glow
in this tube is caused by a plasma carrying an electrical current.
Visitors are asked to move a magnet along the side of the glass
tube. They watch how the magnet affects the glowing plasma inside