Development of an Advanced Space Weather Warning System: The PreSTIM Laboratory Prototype, 15-9557Printer Friendly Version
Inclusive Dates: 07/01/05 Current
Background - Explosions coronal mass ejections and flares on the surface of the sun can release large amounts of energy and mass into the interplanetary medium. A fraction of these perturbations will inevitably impact directly on the Earth's magnetosphere. Geospace, the region surrounding our planet with a magnetosphere, is a protective environment that shields the upper atmosphere and low-Earth orbit against the solar wind and energetic particles. Under solar storm conditions, when transient solar activity impacts and transforms the magnetic bubble, the reaction of the Earth's environment is, at times, violent and dangerous. Changing magnetic fields induce currents, and this is also true for the ionosphere (the uppermost layer of the Earth's atmosphere). These currents can interfere with human technology on the Earth's surface and in space. Mainly, the positions of the radiation belts, carefully avoided by human space mission planners, become uncertain and often suddenly interfere with human presence in space. Severe radiation damage to humans and their support systems can result and needs to be avoided. Such severe space weather conditions can only now be forecast well in advance, with the Pre-Shock Suprathermal Ion Monitor (PreSTIM) placed on upcoming space weather monitoring missions. In this research project, we want to bring PreSTIM from the concept level to a fully functional laboratory prototype. The development of the PreSTIM is done in collaboration with the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) at Johns Hopkins University.
Approach - To achieve our goal, we divided the project in four objectives:
Accomplishments - The instrument model is working. We are using the model to test different design options to determine which option gives the best results in our parameter space. We are also optimizing the electro-optics design. We have started the mechanical design of our laboratory prototype in parallel. PreSTIM is a detector that improves the capabilities for forecasting interplanetary shocks at Earth. A previous study with data from the STICS experiment on the Wind spacecraft has shown that suprathermal foreshock ions provide early warning for incoming shocks. However, this study is essentially limited through usage of data only from the rising phase of the solar cycle. Our intention is to demonstrate that also during other phases of the solar cycle PreSTIM will perform well as a forecasting tool for upcoming space weather missions. We have made substantial progress on data analysis in this regard.