Press Releases

Armenia’s Cosmic Ray Division Developing an Alert Service for Extreme Radiation Storms
Hovhanes Vartanian
Yerevan, Armenia
January 6, 2003

The Problem:

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.

Magnetic cloud from the sun interfering with the earth’s magnetic field and causing problems for our satellites in orbit.

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.

Experts Agree:

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. [3].

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.
“The large area detectors at the Cosmic Ray Stations on Mt. Aragats in Armenia, make it possible to register the very few, very high energy and early arriving particles which precede the dangerously high large number of medium energy particles unleashed by only the severe irruptions on the sun. We can gather data at approximately 30 minutes in advance of the arrival of the dangerous flux.
Highest energy particles arrive to Earth first and interacting with the atmosphere generate showers of elementary particles. The most energetic of them reach the large area ground based monitors on Mt. Aragats and are used to forecast the coming radiation storms. The arrival of the highest energy ions indicate a severe irruption on the sun and are the forerunners to the large number of the low and medium energy particles which cause the actual harm to satellites and humans in space and over the pole flights”, says Professor Ashot Chilingarian, head of the Cosmic Ray Division in Armenia and the spokesperson for ASEC.
Thirty minutes is not only plenty of time to analyze the data and send a warning, but it is enough time for the satellite operator to consult with his/her superiors and receive permission to put the electronics on stand-by using a pre-arranged computer controlled procedure.

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.
• It has an existing very extensive infrastructure with very expensive large ground based detectors, data acquisition systems, and facilities for extended stays of personnel at the stations at 10,500 ft. and 6,500 ft elevation on Mt. Aragats. The stations are manned all year round, with shift changes every three weeks.
• The Scientist of the CRD are seasoned Cosmic Ray Physicists who, using sophisticated data analysis methods, developed by them and used by Cosmic Ray Physicists around the world, have already analyzed some of the early warning data registered by their detectors. they have already submitted several papers to refereed journals and conference proceedings, which have been accepted for publication.
• Currently among all the ground level facilities in the world, only ASEC monitors provide correlated multidimensional information on the time evolution of the secondary cosmic ray fluxes. Valuable information on the abrupt changes of the types of particles arriving to earth as measured by the ASEC detectors, along with information from space based telescopes will carve the path to reliable and timely Space Weather forecasting service. Similar ground based detectors can be placed around the world for 24 hour coverage.

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.

Joint Armenia/Japan Solar Neutron telescope at the Cosmic Ray Stations on Mt. Aragats at 10500 ft. elevation.

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
* pursues very interesting and timely questions in the field of cosmic ray and
solar physics research.
* enjoys international reputation for both its experimental work and its know
how on novel analysis techniques.
* is internationally competitive (given the appropriate financial support)
* makes best use of the available infrastructure and personnel and builds on
the invaluable experience of the people working there, and last but not least
* provides an excellent platform for students’ education in theoretical and
experimental physics as well as modern analysis techniques.
I strongly support the continued and increased financial support of the scientific projects of this group. I also suggest to provide funds for the maintenance of the Mt. Aragats infrastructure which once gone, will be nearly impossible to rebuild.”

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 HTTP://WWW.CRDFRIENDS.ORG or call (650) 326 – 6634 in the United States.



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