New mission ESA will give us the precious hours before a solar storm

Storm the Carrington is perhaps the most famous event in the history of space weather. A powerful solar storm that hit Earth in 1859, caused a large geomagnetic activity, that the Northern lights could be seen even in the South, right up to Cuba. Telegraph operators reported sparks flying from the equipment. It would seem, nothing terrible. But if this happened today, urban centres would be left unarmed, your network would stand up, GPS turned off, and the satellites would be threatened.

Storms like this happen once in 100 or 200 years, but if such a storm coming, we better know about it in advance.

Is it possible to predict the occurrence of solar storms?

Analysis of space weather is to search for warnings about catastrophic events (smaller but more frequent solar flares) in the process of monitoring the solar wind, coronal mass ejections (when the sun emits plasma from his crown, a perturbing magnetic field) and other phenomena. The forecasts may predict when the Aurora lights the sky, but more importantly, they can warn of impending catastrophic event.

Currently we get a warning for a few days or hours. The main reason for this is that we have no good overview of the entire sun, so we can’t see when on its back side formed something dangerous. The planned mission of the European space Agency could change that, allowing us to look at the Sun side and adding a vital resource in the Arsenal of solar forecasts. Scientists are trying as quickly as possible to start the mission Lagrange (“Lagrange”) before our other methods of determining the threat of solar weather will cease to operate.

Still the majority of space weather missions were carried out either in earth orbit or at Lagrange point L1, located between Earth and the Sun. The Lagrange point is a place in space where the object will maintain the same position relative to the two bodies that are in orbit around each other. For example, an object in the L1 point will stay right in front of the Ground, providing a continuous overview of the Sun at any time. This makes it perfectly suitable for scientific missions, which will need to spend less energy to stay in place for data collection and, in particular, for the satellites watching the Sun.

But it gives us a view of only one side of the star. The mission of the European space Agency Lagrange will use the advantage of the Lagrange point 5 to provide us with a new perspective. L5 is about one astronomical unit from the Earth (the distance to the sun, approximately 150 million kilometers), but away from the planet. “It is the first spacecraft that do plans to stay in L5 and constantly transmit data,” says research Manager of the mission L1/L5 ESA Stefan Kraft. The NASA STEREO spacecraft briefly visited these points in 2009, but the stop requires much more fuel.

This side view would have given scientists of the ESA permanent view of the Sun’s surface as it spins (the sun is drawn about once in 27 days), providing earlier and more accurate warnings of a possible approaching threat of space weather.

Pairing data from L1 and L5 will help to reduce the time of the alert. Currently, the influence of the coronal mass ejection on the Earth can be predicted only with an accuracy of up to 6-12 hours. According to ESA, the mission of “Lagrange” will reduce this time to several hours. To understand the emissions reach the Ground 15-18 hours.

To remove the sun in extreme weather conditions, the device will use artificial intelligence to pattern recognition and frame-by-frame removal of charged particles, which create a kind of “snow” on the images.

The mission is still in an early stage. Currently, the team is developing a technical plan and is a proposal that will be presented to ESA in November. Scientists are studying how reliable should be the system and how to protect the device in conditions of financial constraints. If all goes according to plan, the launch will take place in 2025.

Subscribe to our news channelto not miss the launch of “Lagrange”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *