New Space Weather Model to Protect Satellites

Scientists are developing a new space weather model that can predict the bombardment of high-energy particles from the Sun. They called them ‘killer electrons’ because they could penetrate the satellites in space and damage them.

The new space weather model can reliably forecast space storms of charged electrons that could damage satellites and the spacecraft orbiting in the outer radiation or outer Van Allen belt of Earth.

First-of-its-kind Weather Model to Keep Satellites Safe in Space

The scientists are developing the new space weather model at Los Alamos National Laboratory. It’ll help to give a 24-hour warning before the ultra-high-speed electrons could invade crucial satellites like navigation, communication or weather satellites. This invasion could knock them down completely out of service.

Solar flare activity today
Image Credit: NASA

According to the research, the movement of the killer electrons is unpredictable during solar storms. Solar storms occur when particles from the sun smack into the magnetic field of Earth. So, it’s vital to predict the variability of the particles and keep the satellites safe and sound.

Although the new model is still in the testing phase, it’ll be quite useful in the spacecraft operations. It will also give time to mission controllers to either get their satellites out of danger or temporarily shut them down before the bombardment of the electrons.

The scientists intend to detailing the model study in the Space Weather Journal. One of the lead authors, Yue Chen, stated that the electrons from the Sun are highly penetrating due to their very high speeds close to light speed.

They can easily penetrate the shielding of the satellites in space and bury themselves inside the electronics as well.

Working of Space Weather Model

This new model uses the information obtained from a weather satellite from NOAA and a satellite from the Department of Energy. Then, it performs some satellite measurements to forecast the erratic movement of the potentially harmful electrons.

If the model can figure out the movement of the electrons in space accurately, the satellite operators could take measures to protect the satellites timely. However, they might need to handle some other space weather issues.

Moreover, if this model works successfully, the scientists are determined to further improve the model and have more reliable forecasts with longer warning time before the arrival of the harmful electrons.

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