Book Review: Physics of the Space EnvironmentSpace physics, narrowly defined as the study of Earth's plasma environment, has had an identity crisis throughout its relatively brief existence as a discipline. - The limited and often serendipitous nature of the data requires the research style of an astrophysicist. However, the in situ observations and instrumentation that are central to the field are quite different from the remote observations and instrumentation of astronomy. Compared to neutral gases, the wealth of additional phenomena and the complexity associated with magnetized plasmas and their interaction leaves little in common with the atmospheric scientist. Although the phenomena studied in space physics are ultimately important to astrophysics, the intimate measurements of plasma properties provide a greater commonality with the plasma physicist. Space physics has experienced something of a renaissance in the past few years. The interdisciplinary umbrella "Solar-Terrestrial Physics" or "Sun-Earth Connection" has stimulated an increasing interaction of space physicists, solar physicists and atmospheric scientists. Spectacular images of the Sun from Yohkoh and SOHO and solar-activity-related damage to communications satellites have increased the public's awareness of and interest in "space weather". The dangers of energetic particles and currents in space to technological systems and to future space exploration have elevated space physics observations from interesting scientific measurements that can be included on a space probe to critically important measurements that must be made.
Holman, Gordon D. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)