The Sun is a highly dynamic and variable star. Solar dynamism is the key influencer of the Earth's space environment producing a group of energetic phenomena collectively knows as Space Weather. These phenomena create potentially life-threatening hazards for the human and robotic exploration of space, particularly in low earth orbit. In this talk we will explore the effect of solar flares, erupting prominences and coronal mass ejections on the Earth and what it means for the exploration of space by NASA and an increasing number of private space companies. If time permits, we will also discuss the implications for a 500 day human trip to Mars away from the protection of the Earth’s magnetic shield.
David Alexander is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, where his primary area of research is solar astrophysics. He also serves as the Director of the Rice Space Institute where he is responsible for its mission and direction. Professor Alexander is author of "The Sun" part of the Greenwood Press "Guide to the Universe" Series and has over 100 scientific publications. He received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2004 and was appointed a Kavli Frontiers Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences in 2006. Professor Alexander has served on many national and professional committees including the NASA Advisory Council's Heliophysics Subcommittee and as Chair of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomy Society, Chair of the Solar Heliospheric Interplanetary Environment (SHINE) programand and Chair of the Mauna Loa Solar Observatory Users' Committee. Professor Alexander joined the faculty at Rice in 2003, coming from the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, California where he was a Staff Physicist working on the development of advanced space missions for solar physics. He received his Bachelor of Science in Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, and his doctorate on Relativistic Cosmological Models from the University of Glasgow, Scotland.