Feeds

World's first space met office goes live

Will offer warnings of ion storms, 'space Katrinas'

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The world's first proper space weather service is now going live, according to the boffins setting it up. Forecasts and warnings of fearful radiation storms, ion deluges etc are expected to be invaluable to those operating in the fields of communications and satellites – and life-critical for future astronauts travelling beyond low Earth orbit.

A coronal mass ejection in a model; the CME is the grey cloud toward the lower right. Credit: Dusan Odstrcil, George Mason University

The space met boys say Mars orbit is being hit by an absolute elephant's arsehole at the moment, skipper

Boffins working at the US National Weather Service and the Center for Integrated Space weather Modeling (CISM) reported the standup of the space-weather service at a conference in Seattle yesterday.

"It's very exciting to pioneer a path from research to operations in space weather," said CISM top boffin Jeffrey Hughes. "The science is having a real impact on the practical problem of predicting when 'solar storms' will affect us here on Earth."

Hughes and his fellow space forecasters believe they will be able to provide "one-to-four day advance warning" of major extraterrestrial weather events such as plasma downpours and coronal mass ejections belched out of the Sun towards Earth. It's already the case that such events can cause serious collywobbles in satellites and other orbital hardware, and some kinds of groundbased electronics, radio communications, etc can be affected too.

A really major solar storm, of a sort not seen since before the modern electronic age, is thought by some scientists to have the potential to be a "space Katrina" – to strike humanity's modern technological civilisation with devastating impact across much of the globe, causing devastation equivalent to a huge electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bombardment*.

Much of the damage or disruption from major space storms or particle hurricanes could be avoided with adequate warning – hence the establishment of the USA's nascent space met office.

The human race already has a large number of unmanned spacecraft – satellites, probes etc – deployed partially or entirely outside the protective magnetic fields of Earth. This environment is hostile both to electronics and to living things: the only humans ever to travel there, the Apollo moon astronauts, survived by only making short forays and by fortunately never being struck by a major space storm.

Various nations including Russia and China have stated aspirations toward manned Moon missions in future, and the USA now intends to go still further – to the nearer asteroids and then on to Mars. Heavy radiation shielding able to protect deepspace explorers from space weather will probably not be practical (unless new forcefield tech can perhaps be developed) and journeys are expected to last months at the very least, so the science of space weather forecasting will probably be critical to such missions' success.

In the meantime, the CISM space met office will have quite enough to do keeping satellites and other increasingly sensitive tech infrastructure out of harm's way.

Those interested can find out more at the CISM website. ®

Bootnote

*At the moment the only known way of achieving such a bombardment would be the triggering of a large number of nuclear weapons above the atmosphere – though less drastic methods have long been a military goal and/or homeland-security bogeyman.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.