Roger Dube, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)’s professor in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, has received funding from NASA for developing a monitoring system that will predict storms on Earth and Mars and warn about strong approaching storms and protect them.
Space weather storms in the form of cyclic winds that carry storms with high-energy particles occur once in 11 years and linger on for about 3 years before calming down. Such storms that lash the Martian planet will pose dangers for future human colonies in Mars, which NASA says will be possible by 2028.
Dube explained that the Martian human colonies will rely on an early warning system to survive these storms. Dube added that this system will be able to predict these deadly, invisible storms when they approach Mars and later issue all clear signals when these storms subside.
The NASA funding will help Dube build a storm monitoring system for protection in Mars. In addition, this monitoring system will also forewarn space storms that approach the Earth and will threaten the existing infrastructure on the Earth like GPS-based navigational and sensitive communication satellites, and the power grids.
The monitoring system conceptualized by Dube incorporates small solar observatories and sensors at the Martian colony or near Mars planetary pole for continuously observing the solar surface. Dedicated satellites are already located between the Earth and the Sun will also need state-of-the-art sensors and algorithms for detecting symptoms relating to dangerous particle influx for providing advanced warnings to Mars and Earth.
Dube explained that the monitoring system technology being developed will use existing solar telescopes and satellites in space or orbit already. Dube elaborated that his team’s innovation will enable the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) for detecting space storms. Dube added that the technology will be used first for the calculation of the probability of the space weather storm hitting the Earth, followed by performing orbital calculations related to Mars.
Dube, however, noted that Martians do not have defense against these storms like the Earthlings. This space storm in the form of hurricane-force guts blasts Mars at full throttle. The storm winds incorporate particle rays and X-rays, which are emitted due to coronal mass ejections and solar flares. It is also observed that magnetic portals present in the atmosphere of the Earth renders the Earth vulnerable to space weather storms, despite the presence of strong atmospheric and magnetic field layers.
Dube elaborated that the approaching wave of particles can be very intense resulting in bending the magnetic field of the Earth far beyond its natural location to a stage where Earth’s magnetic lines are almost criss-cross. Dube warned that such bending will result in snapping of electrical and magnetic systems and also resulting in depositing a large amount of charge in the poles and extend even up to the equator.
This charge is reflected in the aurora borealis that refers to ribbons of light and has the ability to create destruction on the Earth. These high-energy particles will be able to cripple power grids through currents induced in the power grid network and also expose air travelers to radiation.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Space Radiation Analysis Group at Johnson Space Center in Houston jointly issue warnings to commercial airline carriers and power suppliers who are within the 30 to 60 min of a storm. Dube felt that an enhanced monitoring system will provide storm warnings to the Earthlings and the Martians three days in advance.
Dube further explained that monitoring stations also receive data from a range of sources like images depicting coronal mass ejections. Dube added that the particle flux is monitored by orbiting satellites between the Earth and the Sun, and past records depict the storm picture of earlier times. Dube explained that the scientists are trying to correlate all such received data to check if a predictor can be created that will announce that a storm is coming.
Santosh Suresh, an imaging science graduate student, is a member of Dube’s team. Suresh work involves the visualization of data that is downloaded by three radio frequency (RF) receivers. These receivers are tuned to the ionosphere. The ionosphere, consisting of solar radiation-charged molecule-rich plasma, is a layer in the atmosphere of the Earth. RIT’s ionosphere observatory functions like a space weather station. This observatory includes antennae located around the RIT campus and also attached on buildings.