Armenia’s Cosmic Ray Division Invited to NATO Workshop in Greece.
April 15, 2003
The Cosmic Ray Division (CRD) of Yerevan Physics Institute in Armenia made a strong presence at the international workshop on Space Weather Forecasting in Rhodes Greece, sponsored by NATO from march 25 - 29. Prof. Chilingarian, head of the CRD, was invited to Greece by NATO because of the cutting edge research conducted at the high altitude research stations on Mt. Aragats in Armenia.
When we think of weather, we typically think of temperature, humidity, rain, and wind. Space Weather is different from that. Space Weather is created by the arrival of particle “showers”, and the commencement of geomagnetic “storms” as a consequence of violent irruptions on the sun. The condition is at its severest every 11 years and currently we are near the peak.
The loss of several billion-dollar satellites have been attributed to severe space weather in the past couple of decades. Severe space weather also has the potential of harming astronauts in the space station, and on shuttle flights, if it is undetected and mitigating action is not taken to protect against it. NASA’s extensive investigation for what caused the catastrophic Columbia tragedy, included a study of space weather effects. In this particular case, however, the cause was ruled out.
The CRD puts Armenia among the top 5 countries in the world with its expertise in the field of Cosmic Ray research. Using the monitors at the two high altitude stations atop Mt. Aragats, the CRD Scientists have gathered proof-of-principle data to demonstrate that with their techniques, they can predict the arrival of severe space weather approximately half hour in advance, allowing plenty of time for mitigating action to save our orbiting satellites, and space personnel. During the past year, the scientists at the CRD have designed 3 state-of-the-art particle detectors, which would enhance the space weather forecasting possibilities for the entire world. CRD’s advances in the field of space weather in the past year, attracted the strong interest of the scientists from NASA, NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency of the U. S.) and many European organizations. In the past year the CRD has written more than 10 reports for refereed international scientific journals, which were accepted for publication, an excellent track record on par with any major scientific institution in the world.
The extensive research facilities of the CRD on top of Mt. Aragats at 10500 ft, and at 6500 ft were constructed during the Soviet era by the vision of the famous Physicist Atem Alikhanian. Today Armenia could not afford to build this multimillion-dollar infrastructure, but for a modest annual budget, Armenia can continue to maintain these facilities and maintain its top international status while attracting research funding from abroad.
Approximately 100 Armenian scientists, technicians, and support personnel man these stations all year round in 3 week shifts. Scientific partners from Europe, Japan and the US make regular visits to the stations to work with the CRD scientists. Yerevan State University Students conduct their thesis research under the tutelage of the CRD scientists.
In the words of Prof. Johannes Knapp, High Energy Astrophysicist from the University of Leeds in Leeds, UK, “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 technique; 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.”
Thanks to Diaspora support, and the excellence of the Armenian scientists, technicians and support personnel of the CRD, the CRD continues to be an internationally recognized and valued Armenian scientific institution. In January 2000 the Support Committee for Armenia’s Cosmic Ray Division was formed in the United States, with the goal of helping the CRD to connect with international scientific organizations; educating the Armenian communities throughout the world about the CRD and its mission; and providing financial assistance to the CRD through our Diaspora support until the CRD can complete the journey towards total self sufficiency. We are grateful to several reputable Diaspora organizations in the United States and Europe, and to you, the individual Diaspora members for recognizing the importance of the CRD to the development of Armenia and supporting it in a variety of ways.
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