Space Weather Silently Impacting Your Day

An extreme space weather event, or solar superstorm, is one of a number of potentially high impact, but low probability natural hazards. In response to a growing awareness in government, extreme space weather now features as an element of national risk assessment in numerous countries.

Space weather can cause detrimental effects to the power grid, satellites, avionics, aircraft over polar regions, HF radio communication, mobile telephones, internet and GPS systems to name a few. Consequently it has been identified as a risk to the world economy and society.

SANSA hosted a space weather information sharing session yesterday at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria. Deputy Director General of the Department of Science and Technology, Mr Muofhe, highlighted “investment in space is important to South Africa and is integral to our daily lives”.

Space weather refers to a collection of physical processes, beginning at the Sun and ultimately affecting technology on Earth and in space. The Sun emits energy, as flares of electromagnetic radiation and as high-energy charged particles through coronal mass ejections and plasma streams.

Charged particles from the Sun travel outwards in the solar wind, carrying parts of the Sun’s magnetic field. The electromagnetic radiation travels at the speed of light and takes about 8 minutes to move from the Sun to Earth, whereas the charged particles travel slower, taking a few hours to several days. The radiation and particles interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and outer atmosphere in complex ways and can result in disturbances to technological systems.

The most important social and economic aspects of space weather are related to being aware of and possibly avoiding the consequences of space weather events by efficient warning systems allowing for preventive measures to be taken.

“With societies growing dependency on technological systems it has become vital to monitor the effects of space weather” said SANSA Space Science MD, Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell. “SANSA aims to provide the right information, in the right format, at the right time, to the right people, to enable and facilitate the right decisions.”

SANSA Space Weather Centre provides an important service to the nation by monitoring the Sun and its activity providing space weather forecasts, warnings, alerts, and environmental data on space weather conditions to government and private-industry users in Africa. The event aimed at initiating dialogue and engagement with relevant stakeholders to further develop appropriate and user driven space weather product and services.

For more info on space weather see

Engineering News – SA must be more space weather aware –

Vaneshree Maharaj