Space weather is one of the most dynamic events beyond Earth that has effects not only on payload operating in the orbit but also on the ground telecommunication networks. A new study now sheds light on how conditions and events in the solar atmosphere like coronal mass ejections influence the accuracy of space weather prediction.
The study will aid the upcoming Aditya L1 mission to the Sun by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) set to be launched next year.
A team of astronomers led by Dr Wageesh Mishra of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru showed that plasma properties and Earth arrival times of CMEs from the Sun can vary substantially. The research published in Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society is based on the study of observations of Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejection (ICME) structures during the year 2011.
The team studied the Earth-directed CMEs and ICMEs with data from NASA’s STEREO spacecraft and the LASCO coronagraph located near the first Lagrangian point (L1) on the Sun-Earth line. Astronomers reconstructed a 3D view of the CMEs & ICMEs that happened on March 11 and arrived on Earth on August 6, 2011.
The astronomers studied the differences in the dynamics, arrival time, plasma, and magnetic field parameters of ICME structures at the locations in the heliosphere where the different satellites are located. They explained that the Sun emits a continuous stream of charged particles called the Solar Wind and they “found that plasma characteristics and arrival times of a CME-driven shock, propagating in a pre-conditioned medium, may be different at different longitudinal locations in the heliosphere,” said Wageesh Mishra
The study highlights the difficulties in connecting the local observations of an ICME from a single in situ spacecraft to its global structures and explains that accurate prediction of large CME structures at any location in the heliosphere is challenging.
The new study comes weeks after Chandrayaan-2 looked at the inner layers of the Sun and scientists measured the magnetic field of an eruption from the Sun’s atmosphere.
Coronal mass ejection is one of the biggest eruptions from the Sun’s surface that can contain a billion tons of matter accelerated to several million miles per hour into space. This solar material streams out through the interplanetary medium, impacting any planet or spacecraft in its path. When a really strong CME blows past the Earth, it can damage the electronics in our satellites and disrupt radio communication networks on Earth.