Media Resources Al About Space Weather Today's Forecast Home Classroom Resources Image Gallery Exhibits to Go
Navigation bar

Space Weather Center Interactives

The Sun-Earth Connection

As 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.



The 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 universe.


Spinning Magnet

Changing 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.


Aurora Tube

Strong 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 the tube.




  The Space Weather Center is brought to you by the Space Science Institute as part of the National Space Weather Program. Funding is provided by NASA and the National Science Foundation.  

Copyright 1998-1999 Space Science Institute, all rights reserved
Comments? Send email to