Galina Chikunova and Vrunda Maniya, PhD students in Engineering Systems at the Skoltech Space Center (SSC), became participants in the 2020 Heliophysics Summer School “Explosive Space Weather Events and their Impacts”. This program is supported by the NASA Living With a Star Program administered by UCAR’s Cooperative Programs for the Advancement of Earth System Science (CPAESS).
The school typically lasts for two weeks and takes place in Boulder, Colorado, which is home to one of the world’s largest space weather prediction centers. The school provides its participants with a complete learning environment and fully covers their participation expenses. This year, the school is held in an online format due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am greatly honored to attend a school of such high standing. Gaining admittance is quite a challenge that requires a solid background. Sadly, I failed last year. Although this year the school has switched to the online format, it offers an extremely eventful program that keeps us busy all the time: we work in groups via Zoom, do homework, have discussions over a cup of tea during the “Office Hours” and share our research experiences with peers around the globe. In our online classes, we learn why the Solar System planets differ so much in “livability” and how solar events affect a planet’s atmosphere, ionosphere, and magnetosphere. On the practical side, we model the solar wind and study the greatest disasters in Earth’s history that are blamed on the Sun. Our busy schedule leaves no room for missing the trip to Boulder,” says Galina Chikunova.
The Heliophysics Summer School focuses on the physics of space weather events that start at the Sun and influence atmospheres, ionospheres and magnetospheres throughout the solar system. The solar system offers a wide variety of conditions under which the interaction of bodies with a plasma environment can be studied: there are planets with and without large-scale magnetic fields and associated magnetospheres; planetary atmospheres display a variety of thicknesses and compositions; satellites of the giant planets reveal how interactions occur with subsonic and sub-Alfvenic flows whereas the solar wind interacts with supersonic and super-Alfvenic impacts.
Encompassed under a general title of comparative magnetospheres are processes occurring on a range of scales from the solar wind interacting with comets to the interstellar medium interacting with the heliosphere. The school addresses not only the physics of all these various environments but also goes into the technologies by which these various environments are being observed. The program is complemented with considerations of the societal impacts of space weather that affects satellites near Earth and elsewhere in the solar system.
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