ECE 4154 Space Weather: The Solar Wind and Magnetosphere | ECE | Virginia Tech

Undergraduate PROGRAMS

Course Information


Solar-terrestrial interactions and space weather: the sun, solar wind, and interplanetary magnetic field; space plasma physics and magnetohydrodynamics; Earth's magnetosphere and ionosphere; geomagnetic storms and auroral substorms; societal impacts of space weather; planetary magnetospheres; space science instrumentation.

Why take this course?

As society becomes increasingly dependent on technologies deployed in the near-Earth space environment it is imperative to develop an improved understanding of how this environment evolves during extreme space weather disturbances produced by solar activity. This course provides students an introduction to the physical science of solar-terrestrial physics and technological impacts of space weather hazards. Students with such training will be better equipped to pursue career opportunities at aerospace corporations or other entities affected by or interested in space weather. The course is offered at the senior level because it requires previous exposure to physical applications of vector calculus covered at the junior level. The original title for this course was “Introduction to Space Weather”. The new title is more specific about the course content, which will help students distinguish this course from a second space weather course currently under development. Likewise, the syllabus has been updated to minimize overlap of topics with the second space weather course, which will be focused on the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.

Learning Objectives

  • Apply the equations of space plasma physics and magnetohydrodynamics
  • Specify the structure and dynamics of the sun and solar wind
  • Compare and contrast the regions of Earth’s magnetosphere and ionosphere
  • Analyze how the magnetosphere behaves during space weather disturbances
  • Assess space weather hazards and predict societal impacts
  • Contrast the magnetosphere of Earth to other planets

Course Topics


Percentage of Course

Space Plasma Physics and Magnetohydrodynamics 10%
The Sun and Solar Wind a) The Sun: Interior Structure and Atmospheric Regions b) Solar Activity c) The Solar Wind and Interplanetary Magnetic Field 15%
Earth's Magnetosphere a) The Geomagnetic Field b) Bow Shock, Magnetosheath, and Boundary Layers c) The Magnetotail d) Plasmasphere, Radiation Belts, and Ring Current 30%
Earth’s Ionosphere 10%
Geomagnetic Activity and Space Weather a) Auroral Substorms b) Geomagnetic Storms c) Societal Impacts 30%
Planetary Magnetospheres 5%