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Carrington-L5: A UK mission to provide 5-day space weather forecasts

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 July 2015 11:03
Published on Sunday, 05 July 2015 17:31


Coronal mass ejections (CME), billion-tonne solar plasma eruptions moving towards the Earth at up to 2500 kilometres per second, can cause extensive and expensive disruption by damaging power, satellite and communication networks. A UK consortium is proposing an operational mission, called Carrington-L5, to give a five-day warning of hazardous solar activity that could inflict severe damage to our infrastructure. The mission concept will be presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno by Dr Markos Trichas of Airbus Defence and Space (UK).

 

Carrington-L5 3 smallImage of the Carrington-L5 mission concept. Credit: Airbus Defence and Space (UK). Click for an enlarged image

In response to the UK government adding solar storms to the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies in 2011, the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC) was created to protect the country from the serious threats posed by space weather events. Current warnings of CME arrival at Earth use facilities like SOHO, STEREO and SDO. However, none of these are designed to provide 24/7 data, necessary for accurate and timely forecasts and all the spacecraft are ageing rapidly, with some of them having spent more than two decades in space. More importantly, STEREO, which provided essential data for early warnings, is now behind the Sun and is unable to communicate any data back to Earth. With the current spacecraft configuration, the accuracy of CME arrival time forecasts has been significantly degraded.

 

 

The goal of the consortium is to replace data provided by the STEREO satellites, through a new mission capable of providing continuous data from a stable orbit, necessary for the Met Office to provide 5-day forecasts and increase the accuracy of CME arrival forecasts. The proposed Carrington-L5 mission is named after the British scientist who monitored the strongest geomagnetic storm on record, the event of 1859. To provide the necessary warning time, Carrington-L5 will utilize a gravitational balance point, known as L5, which would allow it to trail the Earth in its orbit around the Sun by about 150 million kilometres. From this perspective, the spacecraft would have a view of what’s happening on the surface of the Sun several days in advance of when an active area spins round towards Earth.

 

The Carrington-L5 mission concept study is led by Airbus Defence and Space (UK), in collaboration with the Met Office, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Imperial College London.  The proposed mission will reuse systems developed by Airbus for previous space missions, in order to minimise the cost. It will carry all instruments identified by MOSWOC as critical, and will be able to operate for at least a decade even under extreme space weather conditions.

 

“Within the UK, we have the heritage and experience to create this mission on a relatively short timescale and at a low overall cost,” said Trichas. “All components we are planning to use for the Carrington-L5 spacecraft and payload have flown before or are in an advanced stage of development. This will minimise the cost of procurement and massively increase the benefits to our economy while allowing the growth of the UK space industry.”

 


Images and captions

 

The Carrington-L5 mission concept. Credit: Airbus Defence and Space (UK)

 


Media contacts

 

Dr Robert Massey

Royal Astronomical Society

Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035

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Ms Anita Heward

Royal Astronomical Society

Mob: +44 (0)7756 034 243

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Dr Sam Lindsay

Royal Astronomical Society

Mob: +44 (0) 7957 566 861

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Science contacts

 

Dr. Markos Trichas

Principal Mission Systems Engineer

Airbus Defence and Space (UK)

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Notes for editors

 

The Royal Astronomical Society National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2015) will take place in Venue Cymru, Llandudno, Wales, from 5-9 July. NAM 2015 will be held in conjunction with the annual meetings of the UK Solar Physics (UKSP) and Magnetosphere Ionosphere Solar-Terrestrial physics (MIST) groups. The conference is principally sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Follow the conference on Twitter

 

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organises scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3800 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others. Follow the RAS on Twitter

 

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society such as meeting our future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change, and global security. The Council has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar. It enables UK researchers to access leading international science facilities for example in the area of astronomy, the European Southern Observatory. Follow STFC on Twitter

 

The Met Office

•             In response to the Government adding solar storms to the National Risk Register (NRR) of Civil Emergencies in 2011, the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC) was created providing a UK operational space weather prediction centre to help protect the country from the serious threats posed by space weather events http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/publicsector/emergencies/space-weather/met-office-role

•  Space Weather describes disturbances in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and magnetic field which have a variety of impacts on mankind and our technology.

•   Different aspects of space weather have a variety of impacts on mankind and our technology http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/publicsector/emergencies/space-weather/impacts

•  The Met Office is the UK’s National Weather Service, providing 24x7 world-renowned scientific excellence in weather, climate and environmental forecasts and severe weather warnings for the protection of life and property. www.metoffice.gov.uk

•  Follow us on Twitter @metoffice for weather information and follow @metofficespace for space weather updates.

For further information contact Met Office Press Office 01392 886655 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.