$2.5M grant to monitor space weather, making space travel safer

 $2.5M grant to monitor space weather, making space travel safer

group of white machines in a room
A look at what the neutron monitor station looks like.

A University of Hawaii the Mānoa -led project to better predict and understand space weather has received great encouragement from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The four -year, $ 2.5 million grant will fund a project to build a space weather station center in UH Mānoa campus and set up a neutron monitor on Maui, which the researchers said could greatly advance their research in this critical area.

sun and telescope

the UH The Mānoa Department of Physics and Astronomy will receive $ 1.2 million of the $ 2.5 million grant. Associate Professor at UH Mānoa Veronica Bindithe project’s principal investigator, said his team has collaborated with researchers from the University of New Hampshire and the University of Arizona.

The project will measure the most powerful particles emitted by the Sun, which are solar energy particles and solar neutron particles. These particles could pose a danger to astronauts and lead to a major electronic failure in space, such as satellites, and the technologies used to travel in SpaceX’s space by Elon Musk and Blue Origin by Jeff Bezos. On Earth, solar storms can affect the power grid and disrupt radio communication.

This project will help better monitor solar particles and develop alert systems to improve our predictions of space weather hazards so astronauts are safe on space missions. Bindi added that the station and neutron monitor will take approximately three years to build and be built just in time for our next “solar maximum,” which is expected in 2025 or 2026.

“Here on earth, before doing an activity like hiking or surfing, you want to know about the weather. It’s the same with planning a space mission,” Bindi said. “You want to. know the weather will be good, which means we won’t have a lot of particles coming towards our astronauts, instruments and space assets. “

Bindi worked UHInstitute for Astronomy (If the) to identify a high-altitude current area If the facility in Maui and obtain the necessary approvals and permits to install a neutron monitor, the same size as a shipping container.

According to Bindi, the Haleakalā area was chosen because more particles would be extracted if the monitor was located above sea level. The monitor will be one of 50 worldwide to increase coverage in more parts of the world.

A data processing center will also be set up at UH The Mānoa campus to serve as a hub for researchers to work with and organize data. They will combine the data collected at Haleakalā, with energy particle data from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the International Space Station, and make their results available to the public in real time.

As principal investigators, they are Bindi and UH Mānoa will oversee the entire project and be involved in every aspect of its goals. The University of New Hampshire will support the construction of the neutron monitor, with preliminary data acquisition, calibration and data quality. The University of Arizona will work on theoretical models describing the multiplication of particles from the Sun to the Earth that will be used to define our space weather results and predictive capabilities.

There is a connection UH NEwS stories:

GIVING STEM education

Hands-on outreach programs are available to high school and middle school students. The project also aims to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills, especially among young women and underrepresented groups.

“It is extremely important to expose our children to science early on because they are the ones who decide if they want to pursue a career in science, so we need to encourage them,” Bindi said. “… I am very interested in encouraging young women so that more women follow my career path.”

Expanding knowledge of geospace sciences

it UH The Mānoa award is one of seven issued by NSF nationwide as part of the first round of awards for the Grand Challenges in Integrative Geospace Sciences: Advancing National Space Weather Expertise and Research toward Societal Resilience (ANSWERS) program.

These projects focus on two areas of research — solar and space physics, and space weather and space climate — that are essential to advancing scientific discovery and protecting the nation’s economy and security. According to NSF“ANSWERS provide an opportunity for collaboration and a holistic approach to understanding the dynamic, integrated sun-Earth system, as well as the factors of space weather and its effects from‘ sun to mud . ‘

This work is an example of UH Mānoa’s goal of Excellence in Research: Growing Research and Creative Work Enterprise (PDF), one of the four goals identified in the 2015–25 Strategic Plan (PDF), updated December 2020.

-By Marc Arakaki

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