As a result of solar flares and geomagnetic storms, charged particles and plasma is drifted from the solar wind into the upper atmosphere of the Earth. These low- or medium-energy particles acquire high energy in the radiation belts due to the wave-particle interactions that take place there and “get trapped” in the magnetic field of the Earth. They represent a considerable threat to the electronics of satellites and spacecraft while they are trapped. It is imperative that researchers be able to predict how long it takes for these high-energy particles to leave the trap. Because of the dynamics of the Sun, magnetic storms take place regularly basis, but at variable intervals.
“However, satellite operators are not primarily interested in when a magnetic storm can be expected and when high-energy particles will be emitted, but rather if there is already a ‘trouble’, how long it will last: an hour, half a day, or two days,” says Professor János Lichtenberger. In the given time interval, the satellites must be switched into default mode. In this way, the probability of faulty operations becomes significantly lower. However, a switched-off satellite is evidently unprofitable for the operators, so the goal is to minimise losses: the satellite should only remain switched off as long as it is absolutely necessary for its safety.
To predict this process, real-time data recorded by satellites would be needed, but no such satellites exist currently.
“For this very reason, our international consortium prepares forecasts based on data recorded on land, which are not focused on fine details but estimate the aforementioned duration of dangerous periods based on radiation belt models”
– adds the ELTE professor.
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