Serious coronal mass ejections could cause global chaos disrupting electronic systems including satellites, navigation systems, GPS systems, communication systems, aircraft, power grids, radios, televisions and more. For perspective, the fastest ejections would take just 15 to 18 hours to hit Earth.
An early-warning system.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the U.K. Space Agency (UKSA) have teamed up to develop a forecast system designed to provide an extra day for shutting down vital electronic systems. The project, which also involves the European Space Agency and the U.S.’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, aims to develop a plasma analyzer.
The creation of the instrument will be spearheaded by the Mullard Space Science Laboratory of University College London. Their research demonstrates how the new warning system can both measure and model coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and how this can help predict how CMEs will affect the Earth. The new detection system would use cameras on satellites in multiple locations to estimate where the approaching solar storm is located and in what direction it is travelling.
This data is then combined with coronographs from the sun itself, provided by the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), which show how the CME moves towards Earth. The scientists have already successfully tested a model of the system on eight mass ejections and NASA plans to continue testing. The research group’s next step is to create an interface that makes the warning system easy to use. NASA hopes the system will be able to assist in monitoring space weather in the future. (nasa.gov)
In the next 5 years NOAA and ESA with support from the UK are planning to launch two complementary solar monitoring satellites. On March 30, 2020, NASA decided to fund the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) mission for its heliophysics program, developed by a team lead by Justin Kasper at the University of Michigan.
Launched by July 2023, six cubesats In July 2023, SunRISE will get to orbit flying on a commercial satellite built by Maxar. A system called the Payload Orbital Delivery System, attached to the satellite, will release six SunRISE cubesats once in orbit. They will fly in a formation about (10 km) across, so forming a virtual radio telescope to detect and pinpoint emissions from the sun associated with solar storms.
The UK’s ‘plasma analyser’ will fly on ESA’s Lagrangian 5 space weather monitoring mission to observe solar wind. L5 is about one astronomical unit from Earth (the distance of the sun, or 93 million mi (150 million km), but off to the side of the Planet. The UK Space Agency is working cooperatively with ESA and the United States’ NOAA on their complementary Lagrangian 1 space weather monitoring spacecraft. RAL Space in the UK is also working on optical instruments for space weather missions under the current ESA programme.
What you can do: If you receive a CME alert from your social network or news media, immediately share it and be prepared to switch off all electronic devices.
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