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  • richardmitnick 9:09 am on June 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , PUNCH mission, , Space Weather, TRACERS mission   

    From NASA: “NASA Selects Missions to Study Our Sun, Its Effects on Space Weather” 

    NASA image
    From NASA

    June 20, 2019

    Grey Hautaluoma
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0668
    grey.hautaluoma-1@nasa.gov

    Karen Fox
    Headquarters, Washington
    301-286-6284
    karen.c.fox@nasa.gov

    1
    A constant outflow of solar material streams out from the Sun, depicted here in an artist’s rendering. On June 20, 2019, NASA selected two new missions – the Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere (PUNCH) mission and Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites (TRACERS) – to study the origins of this solar wind and how it affects Earth. Together, the missions support NASA’s mandate to protect astronauts and technology in space from such radiation. Credits: NASA

    NASA has selected two new missions to advance our understanding of the Sun and its dynamic effects on space. One of the selected missions will study how the Sun drives particles and energy into the solar system and a second will study Earth’s response.

    The Sun generates a vast outpouring of solar particles known as the solar wind, which can create a dynamic system of radiation in space called space weather. Near Earth, where such particles interact with our planet’s magnetic field, the space weather system can lead to profound impacts on human interests, such as astronauts’ safety, radio communications, GPS signals, and utility grids on the ground. The more we understand what drives space weather and its interaction with the Earth and lunar systems, the more we can mitigate its effects – including safeguarding astronauts and technology crucial to NASA’s Artemis program to the Moon.

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    NASA’s Artemis spacecraft. The Planetary Society

    “We carefully selected these two missions not only because of the high-class science they can do in their own right, but because they will work well together with the other heliophysics spacecraft advancing NASA’s mission to protect astronauts, space technology and life down here on Earth,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These missions will do big science, but they’re also special because they come in small packages, which means that we can launch them together and get more research for the price of a single launch.”

    PUNCH

    The Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere, or PUNCH, mission will focus directly on the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, and how it generates the solar wind.

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    PUNCH four satellites

    Composed of four suitcase-sized satellites, PUNCH will image and track the solar wind as it leaves the Sun. The spacecraft also will track coronal mass ejections – large eruptions of solar material that can drive large space weather events near Earth – to better understand their evolution and develop new techniques for predicting such eruptions.

    These observations will enhance national and international research by other NASA missions such as Parker Solar Probe, and the upcoming ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA Solar Orbiter, due to launch in 2020. PUNCH will be able to image, in real time, the structures in the solar atmosphere that these missions encounter by blocking out the bright light of the Sun and examining the much fainter atmosphere.

    Together, these missions will investigate how the star we live with drives radiation in space. PUNCH is led by Craig DeForest at the Southwest Research institute in Boulder, Colorado. Including launch costs, PUNCH is being funded for no more than $165 million.

    TRACERS

    The second mission is Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites, or TRACERS.

    NASA TRACER mission


    NASA TRACER MIssion

    The TRACERS investigation was partially selected as a NASA-launched rideshare mission, meaning it will be launched as a secondary payload with PUNCH. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate is emphasizing secondary payload missions as a way to obtain greater science return. TRACERS will observe particles and fields at the Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region – the region encircling Earth’s pole, where our planet’s magnetic field lines curve down toward Earth. Here, the field lines guide particles from the boundary between Earth’s magnetic field and interplanetary space down into the atmosphere.

    In the cusp area, with its easy access to our boundary with interplanetary space, TRACERS will study how magnetic fields around Earth interact with those from the Sun. In a process known as magnetic reconnection, the field lines explosively reconfigure, sending particles out at speeds that can approach the speed of light. Some of these particles will be guided by the Earth’s field into the region where TRACERS can observe them.

    Magnetic reconnection drives energetic events all over the universe, including coronal mass ejections and solar flares on the Sun. It also allows particles from the solar wind to push into near-Earth space, driving space weather there. TRACERS will be the first space mission to explore this process in the cusp with two spacecraft, providing observations of how processes change over both space and time. The cusp vantage point also permits simultaneous observations of reconnection throughout near-Earth space. Thus, it can provide important context for NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, which gathers detailed, high-speed observations as it flies through single reconnection events at a time.

    TRACERS’ unique measurements will help with NASA’s mission to safeguard our technology and astronauts in space. The mission is led by Craig Kletzing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Not including rideshare costs, TRACERS is funded for no more than $115 million.

    Launch date for the two missions is no later than August 2022. Both programs will be managed by the Explorers Program Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Explorers Program, the oldest continuous NASA program, is designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space using principal investigator-led space science investigations relevant to the work of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in astrophysics and heliophysics. The program is managed by Goddard for the Science Mission Directorate, which conducts a wide variety of research and scientific exploration programs for Earth studies, space weather, the solar system and universe.

    For additional information, and the chance to ask more about the missions, please join us for a Reddit Ask Me Anything at 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. EDT June 21.

    For more information about the Explorers Program, visit:

    https://explorers.gsfc.nasa.gov

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 6:34 am on November 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Space Weather   

    From European Space Agency: “Windy with a chance of magnetic storms – space weather science with Cluster” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    Philippe Escoubet
    Cluster Project Scientist
    European Space Agency
    Email: Philippe.Escoubet@esa.int

    Markus Bauer








    ESA Science Communication Officer









    Tel: +31 71 565 6799









    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954









    Email: markus.bauer@esa.int

    8 November 2018

    ESA/Cluster quartet

    Space weather is no abstract concept – it may happen in space, but its effects on Earth can be significant. To help better forecast these effects, ESA’s Cluster mission, a quartet of spacecraft that was launched in 2000, is currently working to understand how our planet is connected to its magnetic environment, and unravelling the complex relationship between the Earth and its parent star.

    Despite appearances, the space surrounding our planet is far from empty. The Earth is surrounded by various layers of atmosphere, is constantly bathed in a flow of charged particles streaming out from the Sun, known as the solar wind, and sends its own magnetic field lines out into the cosmos.

    This field floods our immediate patch of space, acting as a kind of shield against any extreme and potentially damaging radiation that might come our way. It also defines our planet’s magnetosphere, a region of space dominated by Earth’s magnetic field and filled with energy that is topped up by the solar wind and sporadically released into the near-Earth environment.

    With this comes ‘weather’. We occasionally experience magnetic storms and events that disturb and interact with Earth’s radiation belts, atmosphere, and planetary surface. One of the most famous examples of this is the auroras that Earth experiences at its poles. These shimmering sheets of colour form as the solar wind disrupts and breaches the upper layers of our atmosphere.

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    Aurora over Norway
    ESA–S. Mazrouei

    Space weather has a real impact on our activities on Earth, and poses a significant risk to space-farers – robotic and human alike.

    Sudden flurries of high-energy particles emanating from the Sun can contain up to 100 million tons of material; this can penetrate spacecraft walls or affect their electronics, disable satellites, and take down terrestrial electrical transformers and power grids. There are currently about 1800 active satellites circling our planet, and our dependence on space technology is only growing stronger.

    “This highlights a pressing need for more accurate space weather forecasts,” says Philippe Escoubet, Project Scientist for ESA’s Cluster mission.

    “To understand and predict this weather, we need to know more about how the Earth and the Sun are connected, and what the magnetic environment around the Earth looks and acts like. This is what Cluster is helping us to do.”

    Various spacecraft are investigating the magnetic environment around the Earth and how it interacts with the solar wind. Efforts have been internationally collaborative, from observatories including ESA’s Cluster and Swarm missions, NASA’s Magnetospheric MultiScale mission (MMS), the Van Allen Probes, and THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms), and the Japanese (JAXA/ISAS) Arase and Geotail missions.

    ESA/Swarm

    NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission

    NASA Van Allen Probes

    NASA THEMIS satellite

    JAXA ISAS Arase (ERG) Geospace Probe

    JAXA/Geotail satellite

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    The science of space weather.

    Cluster comprises four identical spacecraft that fly in a pyramid-like formation, and is able to gather incredibly detailed data on the complex structure and fluctuations of our magnetic environment.

    For nearly two decades, this quartet has mapped our magnetosphere and pinpointed flows of cold plasma and interactions with the solar wind, probed our magnetotail – an extension of the magnetosphere that stretches beyond the Earth in the direction opposite to the Sun. The mission also modelled the small-scale turbulence and intricate dynamics of the solar wind itself, and helped to explain the mysteries of Earth’s auroras.

    While this back catalogue of discoveries is impressive enough, Cluster is still producing new insights, especially in the realm of space weather. Recently, the mission has been instrumental in building more accurate models of our planet’s magnetic field both close to Earth (at so-called geosynchronous altitudes) and at large distances from Earth’s surface – no mean feat.

    These recent models were based on data from Cluster and other missions mentioned above, and put together by scientists including Nikolai Tsyganenko and Varvara Andreeva of Saint-Petersburg State University, Russia. They provide a way to trace magnetic field lines and determine how they evolve and change during storms, and can thus create a magnetic map of all the satellites currently in orbit around the Earth down to low altitudes.

    In addition, ESA’s Swarm mission is also providing insight into our planet’s magnetic field. Launched in 2013 and comprising three identical satellites, Swarm has been measuring preciselythe magnetic signals that stem from Earth’s core, mantle, crust and oceans, as well as from the ionosphere and magnetosphere.

    “This kind of research is invaluable,” adds Escoubet. “Unexpected or extreme outbursts of space weather can badly damage any satellites we have in orbit around the Earth, so being able to keep better track of them – while simultaneously gaining a better understanding of our planet’s dynamic magnetic field structure – is key to their safety.”

    Cluster also recently tracked the impact of huge outbursts of highly energetic particles and photons from the outer layers of the Sun known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). The data showed that CMEs are able to trigger both strong and weak geomagnetic storms as they meet and are deformed at Earth’s bow shock – the boundary where the solar wind meets the outer limits of our magnetosphere.

    Such storms are extreme events. Cluster explored a specific storm that occurred in September 2017, triggered by two consecutive CMEs separated by 24 hours. It studied how the storm affected the flow of charged particles leaving the polar regions of the ionosphere, a layer of Earth’s upper atmosphere, above around 100 km, and found this flow to have increased around the polar cap by more than 30 times. This enhanced flow has consequences for space weather, such as increased drag for satellites, and is thought to be a result of the ionosphere being heated by multiple intense solar flares.

    The mission has observed how various other phenomena affect our magnetosphere, too. It spotted tiny, hot, local anomalies in the flow of solar wind that caused the entire magnetosphere to vibrate, and watched the magnetosphere growing and shrinking significantly in size back in 2013, interacting with the radiation beltsthat encircle our planet as it did so.

    Importantly, it also measured the speed of the solar wind at the ‘nose’ of the bow shock. These observations connect data gathered near Earth to those obtained by Sun-watching satellites some 1.5 million km away at a location known as Lagrangian Point 1 – such as the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE). These data offer all-important evidence for solar wind dynamics in this complex and unclear region of space.

    LaGrange Points map. NASA

    ESA/NASA SOHO

    NASA Ace Solar Observatory

    “All of this, and more, has really made it possible to better understand the dynamics of Earth’s magnetic field, and how it relates to the space weather we see,” says Escoubet.

    “Cluster has produced such wonderful science in the past 18 years – but there’s still so much more to come.”

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 12:07 pm on June 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Magnetometers, Space Weather   

    From European Space Agency: ESA’s unexpected fleet of space weather monitors 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency

    28 June 2018

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    Future lagrange mission
    Released 10/11/2017
    Copyright ESA/A. Baker, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

    A team of researchers, supported under ESA’s Basic Activities, has recently investigated a resourceful new method of monitoring space weather. They analysed data from spacecraft magnetometers typically used for attitude control — so-called “platform magnetometers”— to see if these devices could also be used to investigate the impact of solar storms on the magnetic field around Earth.

    From a distance, the Sun appears to be a serenely glowing ball of light and warmth. But this seemingly gentle star has a violent temper. It goes through periods of intense activity, during which it can send powerful blasts of charged particles through space, which can be hazardous if they head in our direction.

    This variation in the space environment between Earth and the Sun, and in particular its impact on Earth, is known as space weather. Luckily, Earth is protected from most space weather events by its magnetic field, but some solar activity can still affect vital infrastructure, including telecommunication and navigation satellites in space, and power grids on the ground.

    Space weather events can be monitored using devices that measure magnetic fields, called magnetometers. Some spacecraft carry extremely sensitive magnetometers for scientific studies — these instruments are placed on booms, away from stray magnetic field sources inside the spacecraft. But many more spacecraft host less-sensitive magnetometers on board, called platform magnetometers, to keep the spacecraft pointed in the right direction. Could these platform magnetometers also be used to monitor space weather? In late 2016, ESA’s General Studies Programme invited research groups to find out.

    The investigation was taken on by a team consisting of scientists from TU Delft and the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, who recently presented their findings at ESTEC. The group looked at data from Swarm, GOCE and LISA Pathfinder to investigate whether platform magnetometer data could also be used for space weather diagnostics.

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    Swarm constellation over Earth
    Released 21/10/2013
    Copyright ESA/AOES Medialab

    Swarm is ESA’s first Earth observation constellation of satellites. The three identical satellites are launched together on one rocket. Two satellites orbit almost side-by-side at the same altitude – initially at about 460 km, descending to around 300 km over the lifetime of the mission. The third satellite is in a higher orbit of 530 km and at a slightly different inclination. The satellites’ orbits drift, resulting in the upper satellite crossing the path of the lower two at an angle of 90° in the third year of operations.
    The different orbits along with satellites’ various instruments optimise the sampling in space and time, distinguishing between the effects of different sources and strengths of magnetism.

    ESA/GOCE Spacecraft

    ESA LISA Pathfinder

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    Comparing magnetometer data
    Released 27/06/2018
    Copyright ESA
    A comparison of the data collected from SWARM and GOCE platform magnetometers versus the SWARM science magnetometer in terms of detecting space weather.

    Fabrice Cipriani, responsible for the project from ESA’s side, explains: “This was a bit of an exploratory study for us. Quantifying the effects that solar storms have on Earth is extremely important to monitor and assess the impacts on sensitive infrastructure and so we want to exploit as many source of data as possible that can provide meaningful information, especially when there are no major development costs involved.”

    The team compared the data from Swarm’s scientific magnetometer with its platform magnetometer to determine the accuracy of the latter, before applying this knowledge to an analysis of GOCE magnetometer data. As Swarm and GOCE are both in low-Earth orbit, they can tell us a lot about how Earth responds to space weather. A magnetometer was also hosted on board LISA Pathfinder to keep an eye on the satellite’s precise measurement system.

    Eelco Doornbos, from Delft University of Technology, elaborates: “LISA Pathfinder is positioned between Earth and the Sun, outside Earth’s magnetosphere. This gives it a great view of the solar wind.”

    LISA Pathfinder’s platform magnetometer data was compared with that from American space weather observatories WIND, ACE and DSCOVR.

    NASA Wind Spacecraft

    NASA Ace Solar Observatory

    NASA DSCOVR spacecraft

    “We investigated data from LISA Pathfinder, which can observe the solar wind, and from Swarm and GOCE, which can observe magnetic field currents closer to Earth. In both cases the platform magnetometer data was good enough to recover a good signal, even when the magnetometer is not very precise and is close to other instruments,” adds Eelco.

    The team concluded that platform magnetometers can provide excellent insight into space weather. Their contribution to monitoring this phenomenon can be significantly increased by initiating coordination between different groups and developing new data processing techniques, both of which are relatively low cost compared to developing dedicated instruments and missions.

    Traditionally platform magnetometer data is only sent to Earth so that engineers can check that a spacecraft is working properly. The next step is to make this data accessible to more people.

    Fabrice explains, “We want to encourage data users to be involved at an early design phase when developing new spacecraft, to help figure out how to enable easier access to this data.”

    “Space weather is such a complicated system that changes so rapidly that the more observations you have, the better. This is why it’s great to get as many satellites as possible looking into it,” Eelco concludes.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 11:41 am on April 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Space Weather   

    From Eos: “Capturing Structural Changes of Solar Blasts en Route to Earth” 

    AGU
    Eos news bloc

    Eos

    4.25.18
    Sarah Stanley

    Comparison of magnetic field structures for 20 coronal mass ejections at eruption versus Earth arrival highlights the importance of tracking structural evolution to refine space weather predictions.

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    Coronal mass ejections erupt when flux ropes—the blue loops seen here—lose stability, resulting in a blast of plasma away from the Sun. New research [AGU Space Weather] emphasizes the importance of changes in the magnetic field structure of flux ropes between eruption of plasma blasts and their arrival at Earth. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO, CC BY 2.0

    NASA/SDO

    Huge clouds of plasma periodically erupt from the Sun in coronal mass ejections. The magnetic field structure of each blast can help determine whether it might endanger spacecraft, power grids, and other human infrastructure. New research by Palmerio et al. highlights the importance of detecting any changes in the magnetic field structure of a coronal mass ejection as it races toward Earth.

    Coronal mass ejections often erupt in the form of a flux rope—a twisted, helical magnetic field structure that extends outward from the Sun. A flux rope can come in a variety of types that depend on the direction of the magnetic field axis and whether its helical component curves to the left or right. While the direction of the helical curve remains unchanged, the axis can alter direction after eruption from the Sun.

    In the new study, the researchers analyzed observations of 20 different coronal mass ejections, comparing their flux rope structure at eruption to their structure once they reached satellites near Earth. They used a variety of satellite and ground-based observations to reconstruct the eruption structures, and they directly observed structures close to Earth as the plasma blasts washed over NASA’s Wind spacecraft.

    NASA Wind Spacecraft

    The analysis showed that between Sun eruption and Earth arrival, flux rope structure changed axis direction by more than 90° for 7 of the 20 coronal mass ejections. The rest of the blasts had an axis rotation of less than 90°, with five changing by less than 30° after eruption.

    These results highlight the importance of capturing posteruption changes in flux rope magnetic field structures of coronal mass ejections to refine space weather predictions. Such rotations can result from a variety of causes, including deformations in the Sun’s corona and interaction with other coronal mass ejections.

    However, capturing these changes remains a challenge. Reconstructions of flux rope structure from direct spacecraft observations may vary depending on which reconstruction technique is used. In addition, such observations depend on the spacecraft’s particular path through a coronal mass ejection, which might not give an accurate picture of the overall structure.

    And although posteruption structural changes are important, the researchers emphasize that the flux rope structure of a coronal mass ejection at eruption is still a good approximation for its structure upon Earth arrival and serves as a key input for space weather forecasting models.

    See the full article here .

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    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:10 am on February 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Canada’s Cassiope satellite a.k.a. Echo, , , Space Weather   

    From ESA: “Swarm trio becomes a quartet” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    22 February 2018

    With the aim of making the best possible use of existing satellites, ESA and Canada have made a deal that turns Swarm into a four-satellite mission to shed even more light on space weather and features such as the aurora borealis.

    ESA/Swarm

    In orbit since 2013, ESA’s three identical Swarm satellites have been returning a wealth of information about how our magnetic field is generated and how it protects us from dangerous electrically charged atomic particles in the solar wind.

    Magnetosphere of Earth, original bitmap from NASA. SVG rendering by Aaron Kaase

    Canada’s Cassiope satellite carries three instrument packages, one of which is e-POP.

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    Canada’s Cassiope satellite carries three instrument packages, one of which is e-POP
    Cassiope carries e-POP
    Released 22/02/2018
    Copyright © Canadian Space Agency, 2018
    Canada’s Cassiope satellite carries e-POP, which consists of eight instruments to provide information on Earth’s ionosphere, thermosphere and magnetosphere for a better understanding of space weather. Under a new agreement signed in February 2018, e-POP joins ESA’s magnetic field Swarm mission as a fourth element.

    It delivers information on space weather which complements that provided by Swarm. Therefore, the mission teams began looking into how they could work together to make the most of the two missions.

    To make life easier, it also just so happens that Cassiope’s orbit is ideal to improve Swarm’s readings.

    And now, thanks to this international cooperation and formalised through ESA’s Third Party Mission programme, e-POP has effectively become a fourth element of the Swarm mission. It joins Swarm’s Alpha, Bravo and Charlie satellites as Echo.

    Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, noted, “This is a textbook example of how virtual constellations and collaborative initiatives can be realised, even deep into the missions’ exploitation phases.

    “We embrace the opportunity to include e-POP in the Swarm mission, especially because it is clear that the more data we get, the better the picture we have of complex space weather dynamics.

    “ESA is looking forward to seeing the fruits of this collaboration and the improved return on investment for both Europe and Canada.”

    Andrew Yau from the University of Calgary added, “Swarm and e-POP have several unique measurement capabilities that are highly complementary.

    “By integrating e-POP into the Swarm constellation, the international scientific community will be able to pursue a host of new scientific investigations into magnetosphere–ionosphere coupling, including Earth’s magnetic field and related current systems, upper-atmospheric dynamics and aurora dynamics.”

    John Manuel from the Canadian Space Agency noted, “We are pleased to see e-POP join ESA’s three Swarm satellites in their quest to unravel the mysteries of Earth’s magnetic field.

    “Together, they will further improve our understanding of Earth’s magnetic field and role it plays in shielding Canada and the world from the effects of space weather.”

    Giuseppe Ottavianelli, Third-Party Mission Manager at ESA concluded, “I am pleased that the e-POP ensemble is now formally integrated into our Swarm constellation.

    “This milestone achievement confirms the essential role of ESA’s Earthnet programme, enabling synergies across missions, fostering international cooperation, and supporting data access.”

    While e-POP changes its name to Echo as part of the Swarm mission, it will also continue to provide information for its original science investigations.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 8:04 am on January 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Space Weather   

    From ESA: “Space weather effects” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

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    Credits: ESA/Science Office, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

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    ESA

    Space weather refers to the environmental conditions in space as influenced by solar activity.

    In Europe’s economy today, numerous sectors can be affected by space weather. These range from space-based telecommunications, broadcasting, weather services and navigation, through to power distribution and terrestrial communications, especially at northern latitudes.

    One significant influence of solar activity is seen in disturbances in satellite navigation services, like Galileo, due to space weather effects on the upper atmosphere. This in turn can affect aviation, road transport, shipping and any other activities that depend on precise positioning.

    For satellites in orbit, the effects of space weather can be seen in the degradation of communications, performance, reliability and overall lifetime. For example, the solar panels that convert sunlight to electrical power on most spacecraft will steadily generate less power over the course of a mission, and this degradation must be taken into account in designing the satellite.

    In addition, increased radiation due to space weather may lead to increased health risks for astronauts, both today on board the International Space Station in low orbit and in future on voyages to the Moon or Mars.

    On Earth, commercial airlines may also experience damage to aircraft electronics and increased radiation doses to crews (at long-haul aircraft altitudes) during large space weather events. Space weather effects on ground can include damage and disruption to power distribution networks, increased pipeline corrosion and degradation of radio communications.

    More information

    ESA SSA – Space Weather Segment

    See the full article here .

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    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 11:42 am on December 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Comparing the Accuracy of Geomagnetic Field Models, , , Space Weather   

    From Eos: “Comparing the Accuracy of Geomagnetic Field Models” 

    AGU bloc

    AGU
    Eos news bloc

    Eos

    12.27.17
    Delores J. Knipp

    Improved accuracy and optimization of models could benefit many applications.

    1
    The figure shows bias of the magnitude error distributions for the Tsyganenko- 2004 (TS04) model by comparing the residual error for TS04 against a validation set. The color scale denotes the number of observation points at that location in comparison space. The X-axis shows the logarithm of the observed magnetic field magnitude. Positive values on the Y-axis imply model over-prediction of the magnetic field magnitude, while negative values imply model under-prediction of the magnetic field magnitude. Here, most of the comparisons (bright colors) show small model-observations differences at locations where the observed field values is ~100 nT, which is typical of geosynchronous orbit magnetic field values. Credit: Brito and Morley, 2017, Figure 5d.

    Improving models of the geomagnetic field is important to radiation belt studies, determining when satellites are on the same magnetic field line, and mapping from the ionosphere to the magnetotail or vice versa, to name just a few applications. Brito and Morley [2017] [Space Weather] present a method for comparing the accuracy of several versions of the Tsyganenko empirical magnetic field models and for optimizing the empirical magnetic field model using in situ magnetic field measurements. The study was carried out for intervals of varied geomagnetic activity selected by the Geospace Environment Modeling Challenge for the Quantitative Assessment of Radiation Belt Modeling Focus Group. The authors describe a method for improving the results of various Tsyganenko magnetic field models, especially with respect to outliers, using a new cost function, various metrics and Nelder-Mead optimization.

    Importantly, this model evaluation was based on points in the magnetosphere that were not used for fitting. Thus, the results provide an independent validation of the method. The model, known as TS04, produced the best results after optimization, generating a smaller error in 57.3% of the points in the tested data set when compared to the standard (unoptimized) inputs. The results of this study include a set of optimized parameters that can be used to evaluate the models studied in this paper. These optimized parameters are included as supplementary material so that the broader scientific community can use the optimized magnetic field models immediately, and without any additional code development, using any standard implementation of the magnetic field models tested in the study.

    See the full article here .

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    Eos is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:01 am on October 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Space Weather,   

    From UK Space Agency: “Initial £3 million awarded for UK leadership of new space science mission SMILE” 

    UK Space Agency

    UK Space Agency

    30 October 2017
    UK Space Agency and Jo Johnson MP

    UK teams will lead an international solar-terrestrial and space weather mission, taking on the development of a major science instrument thanks to funding from the UK Space Agency.

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    Coronal mass ejections sometimes reach out in the direction of Earth. Credit: ESA

    The £3 million will support academics working on SMILE (the Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer), a European Space Agency (ESA) science mission, being delivered jointly with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and due to launch in 2021. SMILE will address fundamental gaps in knowledge of the solar-terrestrial relationship by providing, for the first time ever, global imaging of the Earth’s magnetosphere and its dynamic response to solar wind – charged particles streaming from the Sun.

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    ESA SMILE satellite

    The magnetosphere is a vast region around our planet that protects us from solar wind and cosmic particle radiation.

    Magnetosphere of Earth, original bitmap from NASA. SVG rendering by Aaron Kaase

    The Earth’s magnetosphere is the strongest of all the rocky planets in our solar system and its protective role is thought to have played a key role in the Earth’s habitability. SMILE will provide a step change in understanding its behaviour, and will serve a broad range of research communities in which the UK is world leading, including solar, fundamental physics, heliophysics, and planetary sciences.

    SMILE will also provide crucial improvements to the modelling of space weather, which is recognised in the Government’s National Risk Register as a key disruptive threat to UK national technological infrastructure.

    Science Minister, Jo Johnson, said:

    “Satellites, power grids and communications networks are integral to our modern lives and through this funding, we are ensuring UK academics continue to lead international research in solar-terrestrial science and space weather. This will help us gain a greater understanding of its causes and behaviour – helping us to better prepare and protect our vital infrastructure from its effects.

    “SMILE is a prime example of scientific innovation underpinning the broader economy with real-world applications, a key foundation of our Industrial Strategy.”

    The UK Space Agency’s £3 million investment package supports three UK academic groups for the next two years, and is planned to be extended to support the mission throughout its development. It will deliver the overall scientific leadership role with Prof Graziella Branduardi-Raymont, from the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, overseeing the European consortium, and the design and build of the mission’s most innovative science instrument, the SXI (Soft X-ray Imager), led by Dr Steven Sembay, from the University of Leicester.

    Prof Andrew Holland, of the Open University, will also manage the development of the SXI detectors from Teledyne e2v Ltd, a world renowned UK-based provider of cutting edge space technology, which has a separate ESA contract to provide the SXI detectors worth €1.5 million.

    Thales Alenia Space UK (TAS UK) is also bidding for a major role in the provision of the spacecraft’s Payload Module, and has been awarded one of three competitive studies funded by ESA to lead the design definition of this hardware.

    The UK Space Agency funded academic roles maximise UK science return by combining privileged access to SMILE science data with intimate instrument knowledge. SMILE builds on a very productive legacy of academic collaboration between the UK and China, and will act as a further high profile pillar of cooperation. The UK roles demonstrate our ongoing international leadership and engagement with world-class science and research.

    Prof Graziella Branduardi-Raymont, mission Co-Principal Investigator, said:

    “SMILE is a most innovative space mission dedicated to study the impact of the solar wind on the Earth’s magnetic environment. It will explore scientifically what drives space weather and return knowledge that will eventually lead to mitigating its effects.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 7:48 am on October 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Cloudy with a chance of protons, , , Space Weather   

    From ESA: “Cloudy with a chance of protons” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency

    26/10/2017
    No writer credit

    1

    ESA’s Gaia mission, in orbit since December 2013, is surveying more than a thousand million stars in our Galaxy, monitoring each target star about 70 times over a five-year period and precisely charting their positions, distances, movements and brightness.

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    Although Gaia is not equipped with a dedicated radiation monitor, it can provide information about the space weather – and the solar particles and radiation – that it encounters at its unique orbital position, 1.5 million km from Earth towards the Sun.

    In September, Gaia unexpectedly detected a large quantity of protons – subatomic particles – emitted by a solar flare.

    In this image, captured by Gaia’s Wave Front Sensor – a sort of ‘camera within a camera’ in its main star-sensing instrument – the streaks of ‘snow’ are trails of individual protons. During normal space weather conditions, the image would only include one or two proton trails. The long trail running horizontally across the image indicates a particularly energetic proton.

    This proton storm was also reported by NASA’s GOES weather satellite, which is equipped with a particle-sensing instrument.

    2
    GOES-R | NASA

    The solar flare that gave rise to these protons took place on 10 September 2017, and the peak flow of protons streaming past Gaia occurred at about midnight on 11 September.

    “Gaia is designed to withstand these space weather storms and it was able to continue as normal throughout the period of increased radiation,” says spacecraft operations engineer Ed Serpell.

    “During the days of the increased radiation, the amount of ground contact with the ESA deep-space network was increased to provide more realtime information about the spacecraft performance. This additional visibility confirmed how well Gaia was performing and no intervention was necessary.”

    The storm had some minor, temporary effect on Gaia’s attitude and orbit control system. The excess protons also caused the main science instrument to generate much more data than usual, which had to be offloaded from the onboard memory.

    More information

    Gaia

    Space Situational Awareness

    Space Weather Service Network

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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  • richardmitnick 11:55 am on August 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , EISCAT [European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association], Space Weather,   

    From STFC: “UK supporting Arctic project to build the most advanced space weather radar in the world” 


    STFC

    23 August 2017
    STFC Media Manager
    Jake Gilmore
    jake.gilmore@stfc.ac.uk
    +44 (0)7970 99 4586

    1
    An artist’s impression of what EISCAT_3D’s central radar site will look like. (Credit: NIPR)

    The most advanced space weather radar in the world is to be built in the Arctic by an international partnership including the UK, thanks to new investment from NERC [Science of the Environment], with scientific collaboration from STFC.

    The EISCAT [European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association]_3D radar will provide UK scientists with a cutting-edge tool to probe the upper atmosphere and near-Earth space, helping them understand the effects of space weather storms on technology, society and the environment.

    The UK government has placed space weather on the National Risk Register, in recognition of the potential damage it can do to satellites, communications and power grids. Solar storms drive space weather, but one of the biggest challenges in space weather science is improving our understanding of how the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere responds to this. EISCAT_3D will give scientists the means to understand these connections.

    Dr. Ian McCrea, from STFC RAL Space and the NERC Centre for Atmospheric Science, said:

    “This announcement represents the culmination of 15 years effort to secure UK involvement in a facility which will be the most sophisticated of its kind in the world. With advanced capabilities based on state-of-the-art radar technology, this new radar will significantly expand the opportunities for our scientists to study the outermost regions of the Earth’s atmosphere and their interaction with the space environment.”

    EISCAT_3D will provide us with a new way of spatially imaging the structure and dynamics of this important region, enabling us to contribute more effectively to growing international efforts to observe and forecast the effects of space weather, monitor the risks posed by space debris and probe the complex structure of the aurora.”

    A key capability of the radar will be to measure an entire 3D volume of the upper atmosphere in unprecedented detail. This is necessary to understand how energetic particles and electrical currents from space affect both the upper and the lower atmosphere. Scientists will be able to take measurements across scales from hundreds of metres to hundreds of kilometres, providing exceptional detail and vast quantities of data, and opening the scope of research that can be carried out.

    STFC’s RAL Space Director, Dr Chris Mutlow said:

    “I’m delighted that we’re able to bring our heritage in studying space weather to this fantastic new radar with our international partners. The level of detail it will provide represents a significant leap in our ability to understand the effects of space weather on our atmosphere and monitor space debris. This is critical to our national infrastructure as well as scientific advancement.”

    The northern hemisphere already hosts several EISCAT radars, situated in the so-called auroral oval – where you can see the northern lights or aurora borealis.

    2
    EISCAT Svalbard, Norway Radar

    3
    EISCAT radar dish in Kiruna, Sweden

    4
    EISCAT Ramfjordmoen facility (near Tromsø, Norway) in winter

    5
    EISCAT Sodankylä radar in Finland

    They take measurements in a region of the Earth’s upper atmosphere called the ionosphere – from about 70 to 1000 km altitude. They sample the electron concentration and temperature, and the ion temperature and velocity at a range of altitudes along the radar beam direction. But the current EISCAT radars provide a single pencil beam, so researchers can only look at one small portion of the sky at a given time.

    Dr Andrew Kavanagh, UK EISCAT Science Support, based at the British Antarctic Survey, said:

    “The new EISCAT_3D radar will measure the ionosphere in lots of different directions simultaneously. It will be like having hundreds of radar dishes all operating together. This means we can easily see changes in the ionosphere and not miss important data: when our measurements change we will be able to say whether something had just appeared or faded or if something was moving through the beams. This is really important as it gives us information about how space weather effects evolve.”

    Costing a total of £63m, the facility will be distributed across three sites in northern Scandinavia – in Skibotn, Norway, near Kiruna in Sweden, and near Kaaresuvanto in Finland. The project will start in September 2017 with site preparations beginning in summer 2018. The radar is expected to be operational in 2021.

    The site in Skibotn, Norway will have a transmitter and receiver array, while the two other sites will have receiver arrays. These will generate beams that will ‘look into’ the transmitted beam and give researchers many intersection heights.

    EISCAT Director, Dr Craig Heinselman, said:

    “Building on over three and a half decades of scientific observations with the legacy EISCAT radars, this new multi-site phased-array radar will allow our international user community to investigate important questions about the physics of the near-Earth space environment. The radar will make measurements at least ten times faster and with ten times finer resolution than current systems.”

    See the full article here .

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    STFC Hartree Centre

    Helping build a globally competitive, knowledge-based UK economy

    We are a world-leading multi-disciplinary science organisation, and our goal is to deliver economic, societal, scientific and international benefits to the UK and its people – and more broadly to the world. Our strength comes from our distinct but interrelated functions:

    Universities: we support university-based research, innovation and skills development in astronomy, particle physics, nuclear physics, and space science
    Scientific Facilities: we provide access to world-leading, large-scale facilities across a range of physical and life sciences, enabling research, innovation and skills training in these areas
    National Campuses: we work with partners to build National Science and Innovation Campuses based around our National Laboratories to promote academic and industrial collaboration and translation of our research to market through direct interaction with industry
    Inspiring and Involving: we help ensure a future pipeline of skilled and enthusiastic young people by using the excitement of our sciences to encourage wider take-up of STEM subjects in school and future life (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)

    We support an academic community of around 1,700 in particle physics, nuclear physics, and astronomy including space science, who work at more than 50 universities and research institutes in the UK, Europe, Japan and the United States, including a rolling cohort of more than 900 PhD students.

    STFC-funded universities produce physics postgraduates with outstanding high-end scientific, analytic and technical skills who on graduation enjoy almost full employment. Roughly half of our PhD students continue in research, sustaining national capability and creating the bedrock of the UK’s scientific excellence. The remainder – much valued for their numerical, problem solving and project management skills – choose equally important industrial, commercial or government careers.

    Our large-scale scientific facilities in the UK and Europe are used by more than 3,500 users each year, carrying out more than 2,000 experiments and generating around 900 publications. The facilities provide a range of research techniques using neutrons, muons, lasers and x-rays, and high performance computing and complex analysis of large data sets.

    They are used by scientists across a huge variety of science disciplines ranging from the physical and heritage sciences to medicine, biosciences, the environment, energy, and more. These facilities provide a massive productivity boost for UK science, as well as unique capabilities for UK industry.

    Our two Campuses are based around our Rutherford Appleton Laboratory at Harwell in Oxfordshire, and our Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire – each of which offers a different cluster of technological expertise that underpins and ties together diverse research fields.

    The combination of access to world-class research facilities and scientists, office and laboratory space, business support, and an environment which encourages innovation has proven a compelling combination, attracting start-ups, SMEs and large blue chips such as IBM and Unilever.

    We think our science is awesome – and we know students, teachers and parents think so too. That’s why we run an extensive Public Engagement and science communication programme, ranging from loans to schools of Moon Rocks, funding support for academics to inspire more young people, embedding public engagement in our funded grant programme, and running a series of lectures, travelling exhibitions and visits to our sites across the year.

    Ninety per cent of physics undergraduates say that they were attracted to the course by our sciences, and applications for physics courses are up – despite an overall decline in university enrolment.

     
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