Armenia’s Cosmic Ray Division Developing an
Alert Service for Extreme Radiation Storms
How much revenue would be lost if the ATT communication satellite suddenly ceased to function? What if Communications between the Chief Executive Officer and his troops were cut off unexpectedly and it took days to restore it? And what if the Global Positioning Systems that are an integral part of “smart” weapons failed just when they were needed the most?
All these are very real possibilities because of Space Weather disturbances due to violent irruptions on the sun which occur frequently during the years of maximum solar activity. Large number of ionized particles (radiation storms) and magnetized clouds of hot plasma from the sun head toward Earth as a result of these irruptions. Some of them are powerful enough to disrupt satellite electronics, damage power grids on the ground, and harm space station crews and over the pole flight passengers. The sun’s activity has an eleven-year cycle. Currently we are near the peak of this cycle.
It’s Happened Before:
In 1982, during solar cycle 21, instrumentation on the GOES-4 satellite and the Marecs-B, a marine navigational satellite, were disabled after the arrival of the radiation storms from the sun. The GOES-7 weather satellite lost half of its solar cells and its life span was cut in half when a large number of ions from the powerful March 13, 1989 radiation storm reached the earth. Local radio transmissions in Minnesota were overpowered by California Highway Patrol messages. In 1994 the Canadian communications satellites ANIK E1 and E2 were disabled, and in 1997 the AT&T Telstar 401 communications satellite and NASA’s GOES-8 weather satellite showed signs of malfunctioning, all a result of severe irruptions on the sun resulting in radiation and particle storms headed towards earth. These are but a few examples out of many which could have been prevented by putting the satellite electronics on standby in a controlled fashion for the duration of the particle shower. Human health can also be protected by requesting the space station crew to take cover in shielded bunkers for the duration and rerouting over-the-pole flights. The key to the solution is an early and reliable detection of the arrival of the dangerous particles, early enough to allow time for analyzing the data, sending a warning, and taking mitigating action.
The key to space weather forecasting is timeliness of data. A very important and critical observation is made by Dr. Joseph Kunches, acting chief of Space Weather Operations at NOAA’s Space Environment Center. “If we can’t get the data, no matter how good it is, within a few minutes of when it is sampled, it’s of little value. So many things happen so quickly… we need data as fast as possible”. Expecting to design out troublesome problems that might be spurred by space weather is like saying “We’ve made mobile homes safe from tornados” according to Larry Plummer, managing partner for Earth2Sun International LLC, in Westminster CO. .
Armenia’s Cosmic Ray Division is an Important Element of the Solution:
The Cosmic Ray Division (CRD) of the Yerevan Physics Institute
in Armenia has established the Aragats Space Environment Center (ASEC)
and is working on a prototype alert service to be part of the world
wide network of ground based stations for 24 hour Space Weather alert
coverage. Its aim is to consistently and reliably predict the arrival
of the most dangerous particles from severe irruptions on the sun up
to 30 minutes in advance of their arrival.
According to professor Chilingarian, the following features make the ASEC in Armenia a valuable partner to the world network of Space weather research organizations and detectors.
• It has a very strategic geographic location both
in terms of its coordinates and its altitude to maximize the opportunity
of data gathering of the very few early arriving particles which signal
the onset of severe and damaging Space Weather.
Because of the breakthrough work at ASEC the Prof. Chilingarian, has made invited presentations at the Space Weather workshop in Nagoya Japan, and the European Cosmic Ray Conference in Moscow this year. CRD is a member of the Commission for Space Research (COSPAR) and participated in the Space Congress conference in Houston in October 2002.
The consequences of solar activity and the mitigating efforts to protect civilian and military satellites in light of it, is the subject of continuing study by the U. S. Space Science Board and the European Space Agency. The Cosmic Ray Division in Armenia is conducting breakthrough research in the area of ground-based monitoring and early warning of the arrival of the harmful events to earth and is a vital element of the world-network of organizations striving to characterize Space Weather and send early warning when danger is imminent. As an added bonus, the work of the CRD in Armenia is conducted at 50 times lower cost than anywhere else in the world because of the cost effective expertise available in Armenia as well as the availability of the very expensive detectors and raw materials for new detectors from the more affluent Soviet era.
In the words of Prof. Johannes Knapp, High Energy Astrophysicist from the University of Leeds in Leeds, UK.
“In Summary I firmly believe that the Cosmic Ray
Division at the Yerevan Physics Institute
The Aragats Space Environmental Center of Armenia’s
Cosmic Ray Division is a vital element of the world-wide effort to accurately
and reliably forecast the danger posed by severe solar irruptions. The
outcome of its research is vital to the defense of the free world, it
can save lives in space, and it can save billions for satellite operators,
satellite insurance companies, and satellite customer. For more information
about the Cosmic Ray Division in Armenia please visit HTTP://CRDLX5.YERPHI.AM
or call (650) 326 – 6634 in the United States.
Copyright © 2012 SCACRD - All rights reserved.