Space Weather Predictions

by Laura Nielsen for FrontierScientists.

We know that space weather can play havok with technology. Space weather has real effects on human society, technology, and our economy. How do we ready ourselves to deal with it?

This rubber chicken can help.

Camilla Corona SDO – NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory’s mascot at AGU 2011

The chicken is Camilla Corona SDO, the mascot for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The Observatory is a solar observing spacecraft which orbits Earth as it studies the Sun. Packing high-speed cameras and special telescopes, SDO takes rapid snapshots of the Sun’s surface at 10x greater resolution than an HD television boasts, then downloads data to Earth at 130 Megabits per second. It also peeks inside the Sun, using sensors to measure solar and magnetic activity below the surface of our star. Providing near-continuous data on solar variability, SDO takes us one step closer to understanding and predicting how solar changes interact with our planet.

Appropriately, the Solar Dynamics Observatory is solar-powered.

There are more spacecraft researching the Sun. Craft like the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory SOHO, NASA’s twin STEREO probes, Europe’s Proba2 microsatellite, and others, have furnished stunning images and useful data.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory is part of NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) Program, which strives to examine the causes and effects of solar activity and the impact which space weather has on our society. By understanding the Sun’s influence, we can be better prepared for solar max.

NASA: Solar Dynamics Observatory, launched Feb. 11, 2010.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) & NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) are working to understand solar weather, create comprehensive models, and improve forecasting capabilities for solar storms.

The Heliophysics Science Division strives to understand how the Sun’s activities impact the solar-system environment (heliosphere) including Earth’s magnetosphere, ionosphere, and atmosphere (geospace). Activity like a strong solar wind composed of charged particles expelled by Coronal Mass Ejections can engage in complex interactions with geospace, distorting Earth’s magnetic field and potentially damaging or disrupting human technology.

The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) forecasts space weather and disseminates warnings to at-risk sectors. Satellite operators, people who use satellite navigation, commercial airline and electric power grid operators, not to mention high-frequency radio stations and you can check current Space Weather Conditions at the NOAA Space Weather Prediction page The scales are explained on the NOAA Space Weather Scales page. With early warning, steps can be taken to mitigate potential damage.

ESA/NASA: Composite solar images from the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory

Forecasting is achieved in part through access to better observational data provided by missions like the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Also vital are numerical, data-based models which provide high accuracy in predictions, aided by increasingly advanced and powerful supercomputers.

The Space Weather Prediction Center’s stated goal is “to achieve an active, synergistic, interagency system to provide timely, accurate, and reliable space weather warnings, observations, specifications, and forecasts.” Forecasting space weather is an epically inter-agency task, combining efforts from: NASA, NOAA, The National Science Foundation, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Defense, and other researchers. All to collate data from modern research to create the soundest space weather predictions. These predictions can help prepare our society for the technological impacts impending from the upcoming solar max.

FrontierScientists attended the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2011.

Back to Space Weather and your Technology.

Read (3): My Teacher the Android Space Girl

NOAA Space Weather Prediction page


NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center : Scales

NASA SunEarth News

Living with a Star Program

The Camilla Space Weather Project