ECE 4154 Introduction to Space Weather | ECE | Virginia Tech

Undergraduate PROGRAMS

Course Information


The space environment from the Sun to the Earth's upper atmosphere and the practical consequences (space weather) of this environment on modern technologies and human health. Concepts in space plasma physics. Examples of observations and data utilized to illustrate the environment and its dynamic variability.

Why take this course?

The near-earth space environment has profound effects on radio waves, electrical devices, power systems, satellites, space vehicles, as well as humans. As society becomes more dependent on technologies embedded in this environment, more physical understanding and predictive capabilities in terms of â??space weatherâ?ť will become crucial. This course provides an introduction to the basic physical science concepts of the sun-earth environmental system by describing the details of the electrodynamics and plasma physics in the region from the center of the sun to the ionized atmospheric regions of the earth. The impact of this environmental system on various technologies will be stressed.

Learning Objectives

  • describe qualitatively the physical processes in the sun and solar wind that ultimately drive space weather effects
  • describe solar variability
  • describe quantitatively the electrodynamics that control magnetospheric plasma convection
  • describe quantitatively the processes that comprise the interaction of the solar wind with the Earth’s magnetosphere and the variability in these processes
  • describe qualitatively the response of the magnetosphere and ionosphere during active space weather conditions
  • analyze space weather data to predict active space weather conditions, and
  • predict the effects of space weather conditions on various technologies

Course Topics


Percentage of Course

Basic plasma physics: presented throughout the course as needed 10%
The Sun and Solar Wind 10%
The Earth’s Magnetic Field 10%
The Earth’s Magnetosphere 20%
Bow Shock and Magnetosheath
Magnetospheric Cusps
Inner Magnetosphere, Radiation Belts
The Earth’s Ionosphere 10%
Space Weather: Magnetic Storms and Substorms 6.
Technological Impact of Space Weather 7.
Satellite technologies 10%
Power distribution systems 05%
Communications and navigation 05%
Radiation Exposure 05%
Impacts on Climate 05%