Space Weather Forecasts

space weather forecasts

Artist’s concept of the Carrington-L5 mission concept. Credit: Airbus Defence and Space (UK)

Space weather forecasts are on the verge of being created as the number of earth systems that can be affected, increase.

Huge power

Coronal mass ejections are huge solar eruptions that travel across space and to the earth. These ejections move at huge speed of up to 2500 kms per second and can be made up of a billion tonnes of solar plasma.

Threatening our systems

These huge eruptions can damage power systems on earth and disturb the communication and satellite systems that surround us. A UK group is suggesting a mission named Carrington-L5 to give a 5-day warning of solar activity that may damage our systems. The concept for the mission is being presented by Dr Markos Trichas at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales, UK.

A significant danger

This isn’t the first time that solar storms have risen up the agenda as a key issue for humans to contend with, as they were added by the UK government to the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies in 2011. In addition, the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre was set up to help protect the nation from the threats of space weather.

Poor data

The reason this new mission is required is that existing systems that have been used to assess space weather have become less and less effective with some no longer able to send data back to earth due to their position now behind the sun. We need to have instant 24/7 early warnings available.

The 5 day forecast

The objective of the consortium that has put together the Carrington-L5 proposal, will be to deliver a new mission that delivers consistent data from a more stable orbit over a 5-day period. The mission is named after a British scientist who measured the biggest geomagnetic storm to be recorded in 1859. The Carrington-L5 spacecraft would have an orbit which allows it to trail the earth around the sun by 150 million kms, which would give us advance warning of what is happening on the surface of the Sun.