Living With a Star: The Sun as a Natural Hazard

Friday, February 17, 2017: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Room 312 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jonathan Pellish, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
Space weather is a naturally occurring phenomenon that represents a quantifiable risk to space- and ground-based infrastructure as well as society at large. Space weather hazards include permanent and correctable faults in computer systems, Global Positioning System and high-frequency communication disturbances, increased airline passenger and astronaut radiation exposure, and electric grid disruption.

From the National Space Weather Strategy, published by the Office of Science and Technology Policy in October 2015, space weather refers to the dynamic conditions of the space environment that arise from emissions from the Sun, which include solar flares, solar energetic particles, and coronal mass ejections. These emissions can interact with Earth and its surrounding space, including the Earth's magnetic field, potentially disrupting technologies and infrastructures. Space weather is measured using a range of space- and ground-based platforms that directly monitor the Sun, the Earth's magnetic field, the conditions in interplanetary space and impacts at Earth's surface, like neutron ground-level enhancement.

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Space Weather Research Center and their international collaborators in government, industry, and academia are working towards improved techniques for predicting space weather as part of the strategy and action plan to better quantify and mitigate space weather hazards.

In addition to accurately measuring and predicting space weather, we also need to continue developing more advanced techniques for evaluating space weather impacts on space- and ground-based infrastructure. Within the Earth's atmosphere, elevated neutron flux driven by atmosphere-particle interactions from space weather is a primary risk source. Ground-based neutron sources form an essential foundation for quantifying space weather impacts in a variety of systems.