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Space Science

Scientists Get $2M To Predict Space Weather 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the spock-with-a-goatee dept.
coondoggie writes "Looking to understand better how space weather affects a variety of everyday consumer technologies, including global positioning systems, satellites for television reception, and cellular phones, researchers at Virginia Tech's Space@VT research group got a $2 million grant to build a chain of space weather instrument stations in Antarctica. The National Science Foundation grant will help the group build new radar units that will work with the current Super Dual-Auroral Radar Network — an international collaboration with support provided by the funding agencies of more than a dozen countries. The radars combine to give extensive views of the upper atmosphere in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions."
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Scientists Get $2M To Predict Space Weather

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  • A lot of this is done by the GOES satellites already. They are in polar orbits, so they pass about every 90 minutes over each pole. Having ground stations means more continuous coverage (maybe at lower cost), but there's a lot of Eatmosphere in the way, often murky...
    • a lot of Eatmosphere in the way

      I shot coffee out my nose.

    • Re:GOES satellites? (Score:5, Informative)

      by NotNormallyNormal (1311339) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @01:01PM (#29204089)

      This is wrong. The GOES satellites [wikipedia.org] are geo-synchronous, meaning they remain at continuous location with respect to the Earth. This also means that they are not in polar orbits. These satellites are similar to the LANL satellites [lanl.gov] but occupy the western hemisphere. You may be thinking of the DMSP satellites [nasa.gov].

      GOES is useful at measuring the magnetic fields. It does not, however, measure the ionospheric particles such as is done with the SuperDARN [jhuapl.edu] coherent scatter radars or the EISCAT [eiscat.se] or PFISR [sri.com] incoherent scatter radars. The group at the University of Saskatchewan [usask.ca] has also received money to build a new radar which is scheduled to be built on the NE corner of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. It will be their 5th radar.

      • by obi1one (524241)
        This is right, but not entirely. Decommissioned GOES satellites go into a non stationary figure eight orbit. This is how GOES-3 is able to provide communication with the south pole. (See the bit about GOES-3 [wikipedia.org])
  • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @11:58AM (#29203049)

    Cold and dark.

    Gimme my $2M.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Proves that you can make a quick buck in today's world of government. Connections and PhDs becoming salesmen also help too.

      In the end, good for them, it's research and we (i.e. the taxpayers) should allow inquires into such topics, but $2million? Shoot, why not give me one million to study how Neptune effects how soggy your corn flakes are through the butterfly effect.

      Anything over a million for an R&D investigation sounds a bit too excessive?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kagura (843695)
        The U.S. military has been doing space weather forecasts for a looooong time. It's important to a whole gamut of communication operations.
      • by Nadaka (224565)

        They are building a series of instruments in Antarctica. Transport costs alone are going to eat up a fairly large chunk of that 2 million, and radar equipment isn't exactly cheap either. Quit frankly I would be surprised if they could even attempt this for only 2 million.

    • by DarthVain (724186)

      With periods of Hot and Bright.

      Gimmie half of that.

    • Re:Space weather (Score:5, Informative)

      by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @12:17PM (#29203403) Homepage Journal
      I know it was a joke, so WHOOOSH me if you must, but in the interest of pedantry I feel the burning need to correct you. Space is only cold and dark when you are in the shadow of some other body (planet, asteroid, whatever). If you happen to be outside the shadow of a body, then you can forget cold, and you can forget dark. Keeping electronics functioning on satellites when there is blistering, unfiltered solar radiation hitting your spacecraft is no easy task. In other words, 'cold and dark' only describes a very small number of relative orientations an object may have to the sun.

      Cheers.
      • I know it was a joke, so WHOOOSH me if you must, but in the interest of pedantry I feel the burning need to correct you. Space is only cold and dark when you are in the shadow of some other body (planet, asteroid, whatever).

        Even when you are in the shadow of another body - you may not be cold if that body itself is warm (radiating heat). One such example is LEO - the Apollo CSM's for Skylab couldn't use 'rotisserie mode' to control temperature as the moon bound ones did, and thus their skins had to be redo

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Reminds me of Al Sleet, the Hippie-Dippie Weatherman:
      "Now, if you look at today's weather map, you'll notice we don't have one. So try to picture yesterday's map in your mind. Temperature is 10 degrees Kelvin at Tranquility Base, which is stupid because I don't know anyone who lives at Tranquility Base. Tonight's forecast: Dark. Continued dark throughout most of the evening, with some widely-scattered light towards morning."

  • humbug (Score:3, Funny)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Wednesday August 26, 2009 @12:11PM (#29203315)

    Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.

  • "And now time for Ollie Williams with the Space Weather Forecast. Ollie?"

    "IT'S REALLY DARK!"

    "Turn around, Ollie. How's the sun today?"

    "BIG BALL O' FIRE! IT'S HOT!"
    • " . . . oh, this just in from our Storm Center . . . we might get a few Gamma Ray Bursts in the afternoon, so pack some protective clothing with you this morning . . . "

  • The Earth is somewhat cool during the Sun's current solar storm activity lull. The Sun's radiation barely decreases during a cycle minimum- about a tenth of a percent- but too small to explain Earth's temperature drop. But solar storms are almost absent at this time. Its poorly understood how they could affect Earth's climate.
    • Actually, this is a very interesting observation. In the last 5 years or so there has been a flurry of activity on this particular point.

      Recently an article by Scaffeta and West (Physics Today - maybe 2007? Don't have the reference handy) tried to link the temperature drop to the solar cycle, specifically solar flares. In my opinion they got the conclusions wrong. They should have related the tropospheric temperature changes to the number of sunspots (a semi accurate value representing the solar activity).

      L

  • Looks like we'll have another low pressure front moving through as we go into the weekend, which will probably stick with us for at least the next few centuries.

  • There's an app for that.

  • Call me a buzzkill , but , they haven't perfected predicting the weather here on earth with any certainty over 3 hours. Whats the point of throwing money to a program where a cointoss is as accurate as any other predictor?

  • "Sarah Palin Get $2M To Predict Jesus Arrival".

    Naw, that was fake.

    You have heard about some of these pet projects, they really donâ(TM)t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.

    Yup, that one was for real. I kid you not.
  • Looking to help better understand how space weather affects a variety of everyday consumer technologies, including global positioning systems, satellites for television reception, and cellular phones, researchers at Virginia Tech's Space@VT research group got a $2 million grant to build a chain of space weather instrument stations in Antarctica.

    Hey, VT guys? There's not a whole lot of consumer technologies in Antarctica. That's because there aren't a whole lot of consumers in Antarctica.

    I mean, one doesn't seem to necessarily go with the other. It's like saying, "We're going to build a bunch of weather stations that will tell us when it's raining so we can figure out the effect of rain on consumer devices."

    I suppose the concept is that if my cell phone doesn't work, I can try to correlate it with what's going on in outer space...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It is not for consumer technology in the Antarctic. The radars they are building will measure the plasma in the ionosphere which, correlated with the other 20 SuperDARN radars and other space science instruments, will provide information on how space weather can affect communication satellites, GPS, and ground-based networks such as cell phones and electrical systems globally. The Antarctic and Arctic regions sit in a very good position to measure the affects of the Sun on the Earth as the solar wind direc

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