11/6/2015 - Interplanetary Space Weather: A New Paradigm


3:30 PM - 4:50 PM
Geology 6704

Presented By:
Madhulika Guhathakurta - NASA Ames


Interplanetary Space Weather: A New Paradigm

As human activity expands into the solar system, the need for accurate space weather and space climate forecasting is expanding, too. Space probes are now orbiting or en route for flybys of Mercury, Venus, Earth and the Moon, Mars, Vesta, Ceres, Saturn, and Pluto. Agencies around the world are preparing to send robotic spacecraft into interplanetary space. Each of these missions (plus others on the drawing board) has a unique need to know when a solar storm will pass through its corner of space or how the subsequent solar cycle will behave. Ultimately, astronauts will follow, traveling beyond Earth orbit, and their need for interplanetary space weather and climate forecasting will be even more compelling.

Until recently, forecasters could scarcely predict space weather in the limited vicinity of Earth. Interplanetary forecasting was even more challenging. This began to change in 2006 with the launch of the twin STEREO probes followed almost four years later by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. These three spacecraft along with SOHO now surround the sun, monitoring active regions, flares, and coronal mass ejections around the full circumference of the star. No matter which way a solar storm travels, the STEREO-SOHO-SDO fleet can track it. Missions like SDO and Kepler are giving us a better view of sun-like stars and their inner workings to understand their cyclic behavior, while missions like MAVEN and JUNO are investigating interaction of solar radiation and solar wind with Mar’s upper atmosphere and Jupiter’s intense auroras, a branch of heliophysics called “comparative heliophysics.”

To capitalize on the science that will naturally emerge from the growth and modernization of the observational assets, researchers from many different fields will have to work together. Interplanetary space weather and climate forecasting is essentially interdisciplinary. Progress requires expertise in astrophysics, plasma physics, solar physics, weather forecasting, planetary atmospheres, and more. In this talk I will summarize existing observational assets, other resources, and the challenges we have to face to move this interdisciplinary field forward.

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