As the primary body of our Solar System, containing about a thousand times the mass of the planets and all the other bodies in orbit around it, our Sun is of obvious, fundamental importance to the Earth and the life upon it. The Sun’s heat drives our global weather patterns, while its light is utilised by green plants for the essential process of photosynthesis. Activity at, or close to, the surface of the Sun, as we have already seen (Section 3.1.1), can have a major influence on the solar wind flowing past the Earth, in turn producing geomagnetic storms. Such events can affect communications and other systems, and will take on greater significance when the near-Earth orbital environment comes to be used more extensively for human activities - most particularly the operation of the permanently manned International Space Station. Energetic particles arriving in this environment following solar flares or coronal mass ejections present a hazard to orbital hardware and to living tissue above the atmosphere’s protective shield. Given the importance of such “space weather” to the future exploitation of the orbital environment, it is hardly surprising that professional scientists give a high priority to the continuous monitoring of solar activity in an attempt to improve their understanding and forecasting of it.
KeywordsConvection Depression Mercury Europe Explosive
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