By anticipating extreme events which can take out satellites and create social and financial upheaval rivaling, a city-centered research institute which studies extreme occurrences in the space environment as well as their expected impact on the Earth’s upper atmosphere is slated to play a major role in providing important support to the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) and a variety of space-reliant technological sectors, like navigation, telecommunication, broadcasting, and defense.
“The Aditya-L1 spacecraft will improve the capabilities of the CESSI (Centre for Excellence in Space Sciences India) at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata (IISER-Kolkata) to anticipate extreme space weather occurrences, such as solar flares and geomagnetic storms, and timely forecasts that can prevent a catastrophe,” stated space scientist Dibyendu Nandi, who is recognized for his work on the Sun’s activity as well as space weather.
CESSI is an essential partner in ISRO’s Aditya-L1 mission because it is the country’s only organization that produces operational space weather predictions for assessing and forecasting space atmospheric occurrences. Three years later, ISRO is preparing to launch a new mission: the DISHA-L&H program, which will consist of twin satellites that will research and record changes in the Earth’s ionosphere, which is the barrier between outer space and the atmosphere.
“Whereas the Aditya-L1 satellite has the equipment to detect the formation of solar storms and their depiction in the close-Earth space environment, the planned DISHA satellites would quantify the influence of these storms in the Earth’s ionosphere,” stated D Pallamraju, chair of the ISRO Advisory Committee on Space Aeronomy Satellite Study Team. To comprehend the physical mechanisms at play and develop forecasts regarding severe space weather events, computer models, as well as data analytics, are required.
“This is where IISER Kolkata, CESSI steps in with its unique modeling and forecasting capabilities,” added Nandi. CESSI now utilizes satellite observations to be able to study the Sun’s activity and space weather and utilizes machine learning-centered big data analytics as well as computer modeling to predict solar flares and the speed and time of the space plasma storms which trigger geomagnetic disturbances.
On February 3, 2022, CESSI predicted a solar storm which did destroy 40 of SpaceX’s 49 Starlink satellites. The Carrington event, which took place in 1859, was the most powerful solar storm ever reported to have struck Earth. In 2012, a comparable storm came within inches of Earth. According to Lloyd’s of London, the cost of a direct hit from such a solar space storm in the United States alone would be several trillion dollars.
The effect of extreme space weather on human society and technology was explored during an ISRO-organized assembly of space scientists and government entities. “With telephony, GPS, aviation, internet services, radio communication, power installations, and even defense systems linked to satellites circling in space, life on Earth is intimately linked to satellites,” said Ashik Paul of the University of Calcutta’s Institute of Radio Physics and Electronics.