Earth and the planets sit in the crosshairs of multiple streams of solar power. Giant explosions on the sun, called coronal mass ejections, blast electrically charged particles across the solar system, where they are deflected by Earth's strong magnetic field. As the sun endlessly emits solar radiation, a different kind of protective layer—Earth's gaseous atmosphere—shields the planet from harmful rays. But it is the radiation that penetrates the atmosphere and is absorbed by Earth's surface that makes life possible and drives a remarkable planetary engine—the climate. This narrated animation uses NASA satellite and model data to illustrate the fundamental power of the sun and how its energy drives the winds and ocean currents on Earth. It is an excerpt from "Dynamic Earth: Exploring Earth's Climate Engine," a fulldome, high-resolution movie now playing at planetariums around the world.
Layers of armor protect Earth from the sun's harmful energies, while letting in heat and light that power the climate.
The animation begins with a coronal mass ejection pelting Venus, and then zooms in for a close-up view of Earth's winds and ocean currents.
Unlike Earth, Venus lacks a magnetic field to deflect powerful solar outbursts.
As the coronal mass ejection reaches Earth, the solar particles are deflected by the planet's magnetic field.
Earth's magnetic field extends through field lines that run from the North Pole (orange) to the South Pole (blue).
Led by Earth's endless quest to equalize the dispersion of heat, winds whip around the world.
Winds bear down on the ocean to create surface currents, seen here swirling off the coast of Florida.
When the Gulf Stream leaves the coast of the United States, it meanders toward Europe as the North Atlantic Drift.
This underwater view off the continental shelf of North America shows ocean currents at different depths.
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Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Dynamic Earth is a fulldome production of Spitz Creative Media, NCSA Advanced Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois, NASA/GSFC Scientific Visualization Studio and Thomas Lucas Productions in association with Denver Museum of Nature and Science.