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Space Weather and Satellites
Wed 12 April 2017, 19:00 – 20:30 BST
Space Weather and Satellites
Richard B Horne
British Antarctic Survey
Large explosions on the Sun can expel billions of tons of charged particles and magnetic field out into space in what is known as a coronal mass ejection. When this plasma encounter’s the Earth’s magnetic field it can tear open the outer layers of the field and cause a geomagnetic storm which can last for days. Magnetic storms can cause disruption to power supplies, satellites, positioning and timing signals, aviation and a host of other businesses. Here we describe what happens to the Earth’s radiation belts and how they present an enhanced risk of radiation damage to satellites. The radiation belts consist of high energy (relativistic) electrons and ions trapped inside the Earth’s external magnetic field and which circulate round the Earth on a period of tens of minutes. The science problem is to understand how the particles are accelerated, and what causes the variability. We show how the original ideas on how the radiation belts are formed have been changed by new research and discuss the two leading acceleration processes, acceleration by very low frequency radio waves, and acceleration by radial transport. We describe a new system that has been developed in the EU SPACECAST and the SPACESTORM projects to forecast radiation levels throughout the radiation belts and assess the risk to satellites on orbit. Finally, we show how electron acceleration by very low frequency radio waves could be a major process for forming the radiation belts at Jupiter and Saturn.
Richard B. Horne is an individual merit scientist (IM band 2) at the British Antarctic Survey and Honary Professor at the University of Sheffield. He has a B.Sc. in Physics, a Doctorate in Space Plasma Physics, and over 35 years research experience. Between 2000-2010 he led two large research programmes at the British Antarctic Survey and currently leads a European Framework 7 programme called SPACESTORM to help protect satellites from Space Weather. He also leads research projects to study how energetic charged particles affect the Earth’s atmosphere and influence climate, and particle acceleration processes at the Earth, Jupiter and Saturn.
Richard has a special interest in particle acceleration, planetary radiation belts and Space Weather. In 2005 he won achievement awards from NASA and ESA for his research showing that electron acceleration by very low frequency waves is a major process for forming the Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts. These ideas are being tested by the new NASA RBSP satellite mission launched in 2012. Richard has also worked on wave heating of plasmas and wave propagation at the Earth and planets.
Richard has also worked on hazard risk to satellites for UK Insurance companies and, as part of a team led by Alcatel Space (Paris), conducted a feasibility study on Space Weather for the European Space Agency. He has provided scientific advice on Space Weather for the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, and on Defence. He is a member of the Space Environment Impacts Expert Group which provides advice for the Civil Contingencies Unit at the Cabinet Office.
Richard has published more than 160 research papers, including 3 in Nature and 2 in Nature Physics, and has a Thompson h index of 52. He has numerous international collaborations, serves on UK advisory committees for space missions and NASA funding panels. He is a Co-Investigator on the ESA Cluster satellites and the NASA Van Allen Probes satellite mission. He is former International Chair for Commission H of the International Union of Radio Science (URSI) and former Vice President of the Royal Astronomical Society. He was elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union in 2011, Fellow of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge in 2014 and was runner up in the LLoyds Science of Risk Prize in 2014.