CSI662/ASTR769                          Spring 2007


Introduction to Space Weather




Prerequisites: permission of instructor
Credits: 3

Date: Tuesday

Time: 7:20 PM to 10:00 PM

Place: Research Building 302


      Dr. Jie Zhang

      Office: RB1 – 351       Phone: (703)993-1998       E-mail: jzhang7@gmu.edu

      Office Hour: by appointment

Class URL: http://solar.gmu.edu/teaching/CSI662_2007/index.html



      Space Weather is a new field of science that studies the space environment driven by the interaction between the Sun and the Earth. Space Weather can adversely affect humans and human technology, including astronauts, satellites (systems and orbits), communications and navigation, electric power grids, and pipelines.  This course begins with an overview of the space weather systems involving the Sun, Heliosphere, Magnetosphere and Ionosphere.  It presents the basic structure of the Sun, the solar magnetic field and configuration, the physical bases of flares and coronal mass ejections, and particle acceleration mechanisms. It describes the physics controlling the formation and dynamics of the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field. The physical processes that govern the magnetosphere’s behavior and its interaction with the atmosphere are covered. These include electric fields and particle acceleration that can produce geomagnetic storms. The fundamental equations of state that dictate atmospheric equilibrium and the creation of the ionosphere will be presented. Basic processes include neutral gas dynamics, ionospheric motions, and photochemical processes. The space weather effects on radio wave propagation and spacecraft operation are discussed


      This introductory course is intended for graduate students and senior-level undergraduate students with academic background in introductory physics.



  • Overview of Space Weather Systems (Sun, Heliosphere, Magnetosphere, Ionosphere)
  • Solar interior, solar magnetism, structure of solar atmosphere
  • Solar Activity: Flares, Coronal Mass Ejections and Solar Energetic Particles
  • Solar Wind Formation and Acceleration, Heliospheric Structure
  • Magnetospheric structure, magnetospheric storms and substorms
  • Ionospheric Structure and dynamics
  • Space Weather Effects on Technological Systems


          4-6 homework


        There is one comprehensive end-to-end space weather project, which should address the whole chain activity throughout the Sun, heliosphere, magnetosphere and ionosphere. This project may consists of several phases.

Exams: one midterm and final


        Homework (25%), Project (30%), Midterm (15%), Final Exam (30%)

Text Book (required):                

      “Introduction to Space Environment”, Thomas F. Tascione, 1994, Krieger Publishing Company (ISBN: 0-89464-044-5)

Supplement Reference Books:

“Physics of the Solar Corona”, Markus J. Aschwanden, 2004, Praxis Publishing (ISBN: 3-540-30765-6)

“Physics of Space Environment”, Tamas I. Gombosi, 1998, Cambridge University Press (ISBN: 0-521-59264-X)

“Physics of the Earth’s Space Environment”, Gerd W. Prölss, 2002, Springer (ISBN: 3-540-21426-7)