NASA SW REDI Bootcamp 2015

The 3rd Space Weather Research, Education and Development Initiative (SW REDI) has been held at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from 2 June to 12 June 2015.

SW REDI is a NASA educational project which aims to:

  • Promote space environment awareness as an important component of the new millennium core education.
  • Facilitate establishment of space weather programs at universities worldwide.
  • Provide undergraduate student internship opportunities at CCMC/SWRC to develop skills beneficial for any future career pursuit

The program is ideal for motivated undergraduate or graduate students who seek to become independent space weather forecasters, or to perform space weather related research.

SW REDI Bootcamp 2015 participants. [Credits: NASA]
SW REDI Bootcamp 2015 participants. [Credits: NASA]
Training features the Integrated Space Weather Analysis System (iSWA), the space environment models installed at the CCMC and draws on the experience of the CCMC/SWRC’s unique research-based space weather service/forecasting team.

As members of NOSWE, we got the opportunity to participate in this year SW REDI bootcamp.

The first week was focused on the theoretical foundations of space weather: the Sun’s structure and its activity, flares, coronal mass ejections (CMEs), solar energetic particles and their impact on spacecraft and Earth’s magnetosphere. In addition, participants were introduced to iSWA and to the Database Of Notification, Knowledge, Information (DONKI) web applications. These are extremely useful tools both for students and researchers.

The second week was focused on forecast training. We had a deep, albeit short, look at the job of a space weather forecaster.
The main activity of a forecaster is to monitor solar conditions, predict possible CMEs impacting Earth or spacecrafts and send notification alerts.

iSWA is the main tool used to monitor solar activity. It is possible to get a comprehensive picture of the Sun looking at it in different wavelengths thanks to instruments onboard of SOHO, and STEREO spacecrafts. iSWA can be also used to monitor the solar wind parameters (velocity, density and magnetic field), as measured by the ACE spacecraft which orbits the L1 libration point. In addition, several tools to monitor the Earth’s magnetosphere and ionosphere are included in iSWA (e.g. observed and predicted Kp index, magnetopause position and electron/ions energy flux).

Dr. Yihua Zheng explaining an iSWA layout at the Space Weather Lab
Dr. Yihua Zheng explaining an iSWA layout at the Space Weather Lab.

When a CME is detected, the forecaster measures its parameters using data available from SOHO, STEREO-A and STEREO-B (unfortunately, it seems that STEREO-B has stopped sending signals back to Earth). This is possible by triangulation done via the StereoCAT web application. The parameters (speed, start time, time at 21.5 solar radius, half-width, latitude and longitude) are then input in the simulation, which is based on the WSA-ENLIL Cone model. The output contains a lot of information about the possible impact on spacecrafts and inner planets.

WSA-ENLIL Cone model simulation of a CME glancing Earth. [Credits: NASA]
WSA-ENLIL Cone model simulation of a CME glancing Earth. [Credits: NASA]
After the simulation, if any spacecraft (or Earth!) is supposed to be hit by the CME, the forecaster must send alert notifications to relevant customers.

In addition to the forecast training mentioned above, participants had the possibility to meet expert scientists and discuss with them several space weather research topics. This is really the icing on the cake that makes the SW REDI Bootcamp a great experience for anyone interested in this exciting field!