ESA watches for solar hazards

This week, to coincide with the fifteenth annual European Space Weather Week, ESA is celebrating the dynamic phenomenon of space weather.

Unpredictable and temperamental, our Sun routinely blasts intense radiation combined with colossal amounts of energetic material in every direction, creating the ever-changing conditions in space known as ‘space weather’.

Our magnetic field protects us from the ‘solar wind’ — the constant stream of electrons, protons and heavier particles from the Sun – and from Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), the Sun’s occasional outbursts of billion-tonne clouds of solar plasma into space.

The most extreme events, arrivals of fast CMEs or high-speed solar-wind streams, disturb our protective magnetic shield, creating geomagnetic storms.

These storms have the potential to cause serious problems for modern technological systems, disrupting or damaging satellites in space and the multitude of services — like navigation and telecoms — that rely on them, blacking out power grids and radio communication and creating a radiation hazard for astronauts in space, even serving potentially harmful doses of radiation to astronauts on future missions to the Moon or Mars.

While these events can’t be stopped, advance warning of an oncoming solar storm would give operators of satellites, power grids and telecom systems time to take protective measures.In this report, ESA Web TV takes a look at space weather, highlighting how ESA is working to develop new solar-observing missions and help make Europe more resilient to the Sun’s effects on our daily lives.

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Asking the big questions: What is space weather?

On the sidelines at European Space Weather Week 2018, in Leuven, Belgium, ESA Web TV caught up with two experts working on the fascinating science of how our Sun’s raging activity affects Earth and, ultimately, the infrastructure, networks and satellites on which we rely for daily economic activity.

We spoke with Dr Manuela Temmer, a heliophysicist working at the Institute of Physics, University of Graz, Austria, and Dr Richard Horne, a senior scientist at the British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK.

Manuela studies solar and heliospheric physics focusing on flares, coronal mass ejections and their space weather impact, while Richard is working on ways to help protect satellites from space weather.

More about space weather:
https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Operations/Space_Situational_Awareness/Space_weather_and_its_hazards

What is space weather?

Our star dominates the environment within our Solar System. Unpredictable and temperamental, the Sun has made life on the inner-most planets impossible, due to the intense radiation and colossal amounts of energetic material it blasts in every direction, creating the ever-changing conditions in space known as ‘space weather’.

More about space weather:
http://www.esa.int/spaceweather