The European Space Agency launches an initiative to monitor the weather in space and the activity of the Sun, both of which can affect planet Earth.
With the arrival of this “Indian summer”, many will have got their summer clothes out again to make the most of these sunny days in the middle of autumn. The weather forecasts, which make reference to a week with temperatures in excess of 20ºC, are not only of concern to the public. The weather is also an important subject of study in space exploration.
Even more so in view of NASA’s recent announcement that the atmosphere of Mars disappeared as a result of the activity of the Sun. According to research carried out by the MAVEN probe, the thinning of the Martian atmosphere could have happened as a result of powerful solar “flares”.
This type of ejection could have stripped the upper part of the atmosphere of Mars millions of years ago. As a result, today it has a mere 1% of the thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere. Solar flares are partly to blame for the current aspect of the red planet; and this is the reason why researchers have focused part of their work on the weather in space.
In an effort to assess the Sun’s activity and issue warnings if necessary, the European Space Agency (ESA) has launched an initiative which would protect us if there were problems with solar flares like the ones that affected Mars.
The initiative has led to collaboration between scientists from 14 countries, who issue more than 60 warnings every year, although it is estimated that next year there will be as many as 140, as a result of increased monitoring. The data is gathered at a number of research centres and space sensors, in order to measure the activity of the Sun in real time.
The weather in space should not cause problems as serious as it did with the Martian atmosphere, but it can have a significant impact on the economy. For instance, storms in the magnetosphere caused by the Sun can affect navigation, energy and telecommunications systems, therefore it is important to be prepared.
In addition to the research activity, ESA has pointed out that this type of work creates innovative and interesting commercial opportunities. As well as the cooperation between public authorities and private industry, the agency has also stated that application developers could use the information obtained to create apps which would be useful in the tourism industry.