Heliophysics is the branch of space exploration science which studies the sun and its interaction and affects on our planet earth. In short, it is the science that helps us to understand the sun and its interactions not only with the Earth, but also with the entire solar solar system.
The sun is a magnetic variable star located at center of our solar system. It drives, as well as affects, the environmental weather and interplanetary space conditions within the entire heliosphere medium, sculpting the flow the solar interplanetary medium and planetary system.
Early space exploration experiments discovered that a link exists between the Sun and the Earth. The Explorer 1 mission (1958) discovered the radiation belts or Van Allen Radiation Belts, which protect the earth from solar radiation. The Mariner 2 (1962) confirmed the solar wind which flows charged with charged solar particles from the photosphere of the sun to the earth, carrying those charged particles eventually even into the sore of the earth. And Skylab (1973), identified coronal mass ejections and coronal holes as the source of the solar wind, which, especially during heavy solar electromagnetic storms, as explained, affects the physiology of the Earth.
These discoveries led to the understanding that all stars interact with the universe not just through gravity and photon radiation (giving light to the night sky) but also through electromagnetic fields and subatomic particles.”
As far as we know our planet earth is immersed in a invisible hostile radioactive environment.
Above the Earth’s atmosphere is a plasma soup, if you will, of electromagnetic matter or electrified and magnetized matter mixed with radiation (light) and energetic subatomic particles. Our sun for example, is a structure in that soup that we are only beginning to study and understand.
A colossal bubble of magnetism, known as the heliosphere, protects the sun with its solar system stretching far beyond the orbit of Pluto as an extended solar atmosphere which conducts and drives small and great changes in our local earth-space environment, affecting the earth’s magnetosphere, our ionosphere, our atmosphere, and lastly our climate here on the surface of the earth.
Heliophysics, however, is the study of these interactions within the heliosphere and throughout our the region of space influenced by the Sun, which is the magnetosphere and its entire earth system.
Heliophysics researches, studies, and seeks to understand the influences of the sun on the entire the solar system, but particularly, the connection between the sun and the Earth and the Earth’s extended space environment.
The science of Heliophysics provides cultural, health and intellectual research benefits to all mankind and all areas of human living, as the sun influences them all. The application of new heliophysics research results also provides agricultural and economic benefits for our modern society.
Based on this, the NRC decadal survey and U.S. goals in space, which is NASA’s strategic goal to understand the Sun and its interactions with the Earth and the solar system. NASA has been involved in three Heliophysics science objectives to guide the selection of investigations and other programmatic studies.
- “Open the Frontier to Space Environmental Prediction: Understand the fundamental physical processes of the space environment – from the Sun to Earth, to other planets, and beyond to the interstellar medium.”
- “Understand the Nature of Our Home (earth) in Space: Understand how human society, technological systems, and the habitability of planets are affected by solar variability interacting with planetary magnetic fields and atmospheres.”
- “Safeguard the Journey of (space and earth) Exploration: Maximize the safety and productivity of human and robotic (space and earth) explorers by developing the capability to predict the extreme and dynamic conditions in space.”
To better understand what scientists are doing and what resources are available and being explored to better life on earth trough the science of heliophysics, I have posted here below a video that you will absolutely enjoy watching:
Video of the Aug 15 NRC Heliophysics Decadal presentation
CREDIT: NASA Briefing/NRC Heliophysics Decadal presentation