Архив метки: Podladchikova

Skoltech-led team proposes new space-weather forecasting method

Scientists from Skoltech, the University of Graz and the Royal Observatory of Belgium have developed a method that makes it possible to forecast the strength of the 11-year solar activity cycle. The results of this study may shed light into the process by which magnetic fields are generated on the Sun. This is key as these magnetic fields affect our health and the operability of various earthbound devices.

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Credits: Solar and Heliospheric Observatory The sequence starts with solar minimum in 1996, shows the progression to solar max in 2001, and the return to solar minimum in 2006

 

Folollowing the invention of the telescope, astronomers Galileo Galileo, Thomas Harriot, Christoph Scheiner and Jan Fabricius – independently of one another – found spots that appeared on the Sun’s disk. But it would be another 250 years before it was understood that the Sun’s behavior is subject to 11-year cycles. The 11-year periodicity of solar activity was accidentally discovered in the 19th century by German chemist Henry Schwabe. He was fond of astronomy and with the help of an amateur telescope sought to find a hypothetical small planet inside the orbit of Mercury. He never found the planet, but thanks to systematic observations he discovered the cycles of solar activity. At present, such sunspots observations are carried out twice a day throughout the year by observatories around the world and the prediction of the 11-year solar cycle is very important in many areas of human activity in space and on Earth.

At the start of the 20th century, renowned Russian scientist Alexander Chizhevsky proposed the idea of ​​space weather and laid the foundation for the emergence of a new branch of science exploring the relationship between the Sun and the Earth. He theorized that the Earth is constantly in the embrace of the Sun. And the mood of the Sun is transmitted to the Earth through these embraces. Solar wind constantly flows from the solar corona, the atmosphere of the Sun. This wind is a stream of charged particles that blows toward the Earth and other planets of the solar system. The solar wind carries the energy of the Sun, stretches and carries with it the solar magnetic field into outer space. As a result, the entire solar system is filled with a solar wind and a solar magnetic field. And since the Sun rotates, the magnetic field in the interplanetary space takes the form of wavy spiral folds, like a ballerina’s skirt. And the Earth and all the planets of the solar system exist within these folds.

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People already regularly take solar activity forecasts into account. The conversion of a satellite into a safe mode during active events on the Sun can prevent disruption of the operation of solar cells and key satellite systems. Space weather can pose a threat to astronauts in space, who face significant radiation exposure, and face the risk of radiation sickness. Active events on the Sun can lead to interference in the propagation of radio signals. Space weather affects the radiation doses that airline pilots and passengers receive, especially with transpolar flights. The timely forecasting of space weather is of great importance for the aviation industry and the protection of a number of ground-based technical systems, as well as for manned space flights and the launching of scientific and commercial satellites.

The solar cycle begins with the birth of sunspots on the Sun’s poles. As the cycle develops, more sunspots emerge, moving from the poles to the Sun’s equator. During lulls in solar activity, when sunspots on the Sun are practically absent, the magnetic field of the Sun looks like an ordinary magnet, with circular magnetic lines and two poles. Since the equator of the Sun rotates faster than the poles, during the rotation of the Sun the magnetic field is tangled like thread. As we approach peak solar activity, the usual magnetic field with two poles turns into a lot of local magnetic fields on the surface of the Sun, in the atmosphere of the Sun, the entangled loops that contain solar matter. They can be thrown out as flares and coronal mass ejections and reach the Earth. Consequently, during peak solar activity, the number of active events on the Sun increases substantially. On the other hand, at the peak of its activity, the solar magnetic field is so strong that it sweeps out galactic cosmic rays from our solar system, which pose a great danger to technological systems in space. Every 11 years, the poles of the Sun change places; the southern one takes the place of the northern one, and vice versa. This is a complex process that has not been fully understood. The solar dynamo model is one of the most complex nonlinear problems in mathematical physics.

Each solar cycle is assigned a number; for example, we are now approaching of the nadir of the 24th cycle of solar activity. The scientific goal is to predict the strength of the 25th cycle as early as possible. Scientists from Skoltech, the University of Graz and the Royal Observatory of Belgium have developed a method that makes it possible to perform forecast the strength of the next 11-year cycle far in advance of what was previously thought possible – namely, during the peak of the current solar cycle. In other words, once the current solar cycle peaks and the poles of the Sun swap places, we’ll know how strong the next 11-year cycle will be.

These discoveries can help us to study the solar dynamo mechanism of action. The analysis revealed that short-term variability of solar activity in the declining phase of a cycle is related with the strength of the following cycle. Sudden variations of activity in the declining phase are associated with a slowdown of the decline of the sunspot number, which can be evidence of activity that manifests itself as a larger amplitude in the next cycle. In the current study a new and robust method is introduced to quantify the short-term variations of sunspot activity already around the peak of a current cycle, and a relevant indicator is constructed that has predictive power for the strength of the ensuing cycle. According to the forecast, the future solar activity will be low and the strength of the next 25th cycle of solar activity will be even lower than the current cycle. The results of the study are published in the The Astrophysical Journal.

“Space weather is the science of the future. It’s what unites us all, makes our lives better, allows us to take care of our planet. This is the next step in the exploration of outer space. And whatever storms are raging, we wish you good weather in space,” said Skoltech Professor Tatyana Podladchikova, the study’s lead author.

Link to the publication: Podladchikova, T., Linden, R. Van Der, & Veronig, A. M. (2017). Sunspot Number Second Differences as a Precursor of the Following 11-year Sunspot Cycle. The Astrophysical Journal, 850(1), 81. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/aa93ef

 

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Skoltech Space Center at the 40th COSPAR Scientific Assembly

Researchers from Skoltech's Space Center are slated to take part in the 40th Scientific Assembly of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR)

Researchers from Skoltech’s Space Center are slated to take part in the 40th Scientific Assembly of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR)

Researchers from Skoltech’s Space Center are slated to take part in the 40th Scientific Assembly of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR). On the agenda are sessions, panels, poster presentations and interdisciplinary lectures (with some hectic and valuable networking on the sidelines).

Skoltech researcher Tatiana  Podladchikova will present her and Professor Yuri Shprit’s recent findings on space weather, solar activity forecasting and magnetospheric reconstruction, as reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR), Space Physics.  Podlachikova: “Our hope is to contribute to improving space weather forecasting as a way to mitigate the hazards of space accidents
– and their consequences. Space weather can specifically cause damage to spacecraft through active events on the Sun. It can also put astronauts and pilots at high altitudes in danger of beign exposed to high levels of radiation. There are also infrastructure concerns especially during solar storms which might damage power systems and radio communications.”

Mikhail Dobynde, a Ph.D. Space student will participate in two poster presentations. One will deal with astronauts protection from cosmic radiation during long term interplanetary flights. “My research is focused on minimising biological damage during long term interplanetary flights”, he explains. The second presentation focuses on measurements of electron spectra inside the magnetosphere. It is the result of collaboration with a group of researchers at the Max Plank Institute for Solar System Research, Germany.

All in all Skoltech Space scientists have co-authored 15 presentations, including three that were commissioned specifically for this assembly. Also, the research center will be represented at the exhibition center, which will operate from August 3 to 9. At the Space Center stand, visitors will be able to get acquainted with the activities of the center, as well as learn about current scientific positions and openings. 

The Moscow COSPAR Assembly program will include more than 2,700 plenaries, sessions and lectures and over 1500 poster presentations. It will touch upon a wide array of topics: from big data to biological and medical experiments on board the International Space Station. More than 2,500 scientists and students from more than 60 countries are expected to attend.

 

* The Space Center is one of 15 CREIs (Center for Research, Education and Innovation) that are the main scientific engines of Skoltech. he Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) is a private graduate research university in Skolkovo, Russia, a suburb of Moscow. Established in 2011 in collaboration with MIT, Skoltech educates global leaders in innovation, advances scientific knowledge, and fosters new technologies to address critical issues facing Russia and the world. Applying international research and educational models, the university integrates the best Russian scientific traditions with twenty-first century entrepreneurship and innovation.

Контакты:
Skoltech Communications
+7 (495) 280 14 81

Space Forecast: Skoltech Researchers Achieve Unprecedented Accuracy in Magnetospheric Reconstruction

A new method developed by Skoltech, MIT and UCLA researchers allows to restore the current state of the radiation belts in the Earth’s Magnetosphere. Image courtesy: NASA

A new method developed by Skoltech, MIT and UCLA researchers allows to restore the current state of the radiation belts in the Earth’s Magnetosphere. Image courtesy: NASA

More than a thousand operational satellites are currently orbiting the Earth and each of them is prone to the severe disturbances known as “space weather”. Now researchers from Skoltech, UCLA and MIT have developed a method that allows to restore the current state of the radiation belts in the Earth’s magnetosphere and predict its evolution. This “space forecast” is usually based on sparse observational data. Yet the team of Russian and American scientists has been able to improve its accuracy to an unprecedented level, as they report in the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR), Space Physics. Researchers believe the new method might also be used for weather forecasting and the dynamics of the oceans.

Working in space could be a nightmare mission when it comes to sensitive electronics. When outside of the protection of atmosphere, devices operate under a heavy bombardment of high-energy particles originating mainly from the Sun and trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field. The intensity of radiation can vary in orders of magnitude, depending on solar wind conditions as well as on processes inside the magnetosphere. In order to determine where and when space equipment might fail, researchers and space agencies must constantly monitor the space environment with research satellites.

Professor Yuri Shprits, Skoltech,  co-author of the Magnetosphere Reconstruction study

Professor Yuri Shprits, Skoltech, co-author of the Magnetospheric Reconstruction study

However, raw satellite data is not enough, says Skoltech professor Yuri Shprits. “One of the major difficulties in understanding space environment is that observations are limited to a particular point in space and time while applications require a global and continuous coverage”, explains Shprits. The method developed by him and his co-authors allows reconstruction of the entire radiation belts. Their findings, along with the method which made those possible, are published in two papers in the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR), Space Physics (see links here and here).

“Our model works similar to a GPS navigation device like the one you use in cars,” says Shprits, “a navigation device assumes that when you are moving at a speed of, say, 70 kmph, in five seconds you are likely to be about a hundred meters away from the previous spot. When the tracker receives new data from satellites it blends this model with new data to calculate new coordinates. This requires the usage of a mathematical model of the moving vehicle. We analyze the evolution of the magnetosphere in a similar way but our model is much more sophisticated”.

The prominent feature of the new method is that it makes it possible to determine both the uncertainties of the physical model of near-space environment and uncertainties of the satellite observations in order to combine those in an optimal way to achieve reconstruction with guaranteed accuracy. “This method is applicable not only to the studies of the space environment, but also can be used for weather forecasting, in the studies of ocean dynamics, and for a number of studies that utilize large amounts of measurements,” adds Tatyana Podladchikova, a Skoltech postdoc and the first author on both of JGR publications. “The satellite data flow nowadays is so huge that development of new methods of handling it is as important as launching new satellites”.

By utilizing the new method authors plan to create an online service where the current state of the magnetosphere can be monitored in real time. They also intend to look through the archive satellite data in order to reconstruct the state of space weather in the past. Earlier Shprits’s group have managed to explain the unusual behavior of high-energy particles in the near-Earth space environment in August 2012, when the two well-known Van Allen radiation belts were joined by a temporary third one. The new method will allow to “replay” this and other unusual moments in the history of the magnetosphere over the past couple of decades.

Tatiana Podladchikova, Skoltech postdoc and the first author on both of JGR publications

Tatiana Podladchikova, Skoltech postdoc and the first author on both of JGR publications

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) is a private graduate research university in Skolkovo, Russia, a suburb of Moscow. Established in 2011 in collaboration with MIT, Skoltech educates global leaders in innovation, advances scientific knowledge, and fosters new technologies to address critical issues facing Russia and the world. Applying international research and educational models, the university integrates the best Russian scientific traditions with twenty-first century entrepreneurship and innovation.

Контакты:
Skoltech Communications
+7 (495) 280 14 81

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