Solar Activity and Space Weather

Grants and Contracts Details


SOLAR ACTIVITY AND SPACE WEATHER A KENTUCKY EPSCOR RESEARCH AREA PROPOSAL Science PI: A. Gordon Emslie, PI, Western Kentucky University NASA Partners: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD ABSTRACT Motivated by the recent passage of the Promoting Research and Observations of Space Weather to Improve the Forecasting of Tomorrow (PROSWIFT) Act, we propose to collaborate with two NASA Centers (MSFC and GSFC) to improve the identification and near-real-time forecasting of solar flares and the ensuing space weather events. We propose three main projects: (1) the use of machine learning techniques to analyze images and light curves in the extreme ultraviolet in order to detect patterns that are precursors to flare activity, (2) the development of techniques to produce high-throughput multi-layer optics for use in instrumentation designed to detect changes that indicate a solar eruptive event is imminent, and (3) the modeling of the response of the solar atmosphere to the impulsive energy release in a solar eruptive event. These endeavors will serve to increase Kentucky’s research capacity and reputation by establishing the Commonwealth as a major NASA partner in space weather forecasting efforts through basic and applied research efforts of key importance to NASA. [Note: With approval from KY EPSCoR, references and other ancillary information appear as active links within the document, in order to facilitate the review of such material in parallel with the document text.] I. Introduction and Background Solar eruptive events are the most powerful releases of energy in the solar system, releasing in excess of 1025 J of energy (equivalent to over a billion megaton bombs) over some tens of minutes. The accompanying coronal mass ejections (CMEs) can have a mass of some 10 billion tons and travel at speeds exceeding 1000 km s-1. A solar eruptive event can cause severe disruptions in the space environment around the Sun: high fluxes of high-energy charged particles (so-called solar energetic particles – SEPs) move outwards along the interplanetary magnetic field lines, and hazardous doses of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) and X-ray radiation are produced. If the Earth is well connected magnetically to the site of the eruptive event, the SEPs impact the Earth’s magnetosphere, and the resulting fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field create strong electric fields that in turn produce showers of energetic particles in the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere. These particle showers are responsible for the iridescent (and spectacular) auroras at high latitudes, and they can also can cause significant disruption to terrestrial resources. The particles can directly damage electronics on orbiting satellites, causing disruption to GPS signals and civilian cell phone and military communications networks. The electric fields driven by disturbances in the magnetosphere, if sustained over a sufficiently large distance, can produce voltage differences large enough to disrupt power transmission networks. And, as NASA seeks to return humans to the Moon through Project Artemis, the hazard of space weather events to astronauts operating outside of the protective Earth magnetosphere is greatly exacerbated; it is estimated that a solar eruptive event that occurred in August 1972 (at which point the US manned 1
Effective start/end date8/9/218/8/24


  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $750,000.00


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