Space weather refers to the varying conditions on the Sun and throughout the Heliosphere including all the relevant changes in environments near-Earth/planet and small bodies in the Solar System. The Sun emits plasma continuously, which is termed the solar wind. The solar wind speed varies roughly between 300-900 km/s, however large expulsions of matter termed coronal mass ejections (CMEs) can also occur which can be much denser and faster than quiescent solar wind. When CME collide with the Earth’s magnetosphere intense aurora are produced in the ionosphere and enhanced flux of energetic particles can affect space and ground based technological infrastructure on which we increasingly depend in our daily lives, as well as astronaut’s health. The conditions on the Sun changing the likelihood in the production of CMEs (which have the largest influence on the magnetosphere) vary with an eleven-year cycle.

The magnetic field of the planets presents an obstacle to the oncoming solar wind. As the solar wind meets the planetary magnetosphere it is strongly decelerated from supersonic to subsonic speeds forming a shock. The region of shocked plasma is called the magnetosheath, which is as strongly turbulent environment, where magnetic reconnection and a number of plasma instabilities can occur. Planetary magnetosheaths therefore play an important role in the energy transfer from the solar wind into the magnetospheres significantly modifying the pristine solar wind plasma and interplanetary magnetic field.

The influence of solar activity and its associated effects on the planetary magnetosphere are studied at IWF. Other related topics studied at IWF include plasma waves and instabilities in the near-planet/Earth solar wind, foreshock region, magnetosheath, and throughout the magnetosphere.  At Earth, focus is also made in the research on the formation and influence of jets which are large amplitude dynamic pressure pulses detected in the Earth’s magnetosheath. The studies include their relationships to different types of upstream conditions: CME, SIRs/CIRs, solar wind parameters, and solar cycle.  The IWF is strongly also involved in interplanetary space mission like Solar Orbiter, BepiColombo and Juice, which measure the solar wind and planetary space environment thus giving the opportunity to survey the space weather throughout the solar system.  Furthermore, SMILE mission, which ist planned to be launched in 2025, will enable to study large-scale coupling between solar wind and magnetosphere/ionosphere by combining both in situ and remote sensing measurements.  IWF is a consortium member of the “Space Weather: an Austrian Platform (SWAP)” project led by Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik (ZAMG).