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The Big Picture



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SWFX 8 The Big Picture Copyright 2010 MIT Haystack Observatory Opening sequence and title VOICE OVER Space weather is something we experience because we live near a star the Sun Out in the countryside near Boston Massachusetts scientists at MIT s Haystack Observatory have been studying what happens to Earth s upper atmosphere when the Sun stirs up a little space weather Phil Erickson with scenes from previous episodes of SWFX PHIL In previous episodes of Space Weather FX I ve talked about what happens during solar outbursts when material from the Sun impacts Earth s ionosphere and magnetosphere In particular when the ionosphere gets hit we see immediate changes from the appearance of aurorae over the poles to effects on communication signals navigation systems and power grids Crossfade to animation of Earth atmosphere and Sun The charged part of our atmosphere the ionosphere begins roughly 100 kilometers up high enough that we could consider it the edge of space Phil fades back in over the scene However this is just one part The mostly neutral part of the atmosphere which we are much more familiar with begins right here at the ground and goes up into the ionosphere itself These two layers overlap Crossfade to atmospheric layers graphic animation We live in the very lowest atmospheric layer the troposphere Between us and space are the stratosphere the mesosphere and the thermosphere which overlaps the ionosphere These aren t separate layers that are somehow magically divided from each other with very hard boundaries Instead the regions exchange material motion and energy with each other Consider it like a big cake with layers that touch each other The bottom level knows about the one above it The middle layers know about regions above and below them The top atmospheric regions for example the ionosphere know about the ones below them but also know about the even higher altitude magnetosphere the area of space controlled by Earth s magnetic field And the magnetosphere



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