“Life on Earth is inextricably linked to satellites with telecommunication, internet services, radio communication, GPS, aviation, power installations and even defence systems linked to the satellites orbiting in space.”
By predicting extreme events that can potentially take out satellites and cause social and financial disruption, a city-based research institute that tracks extreme events in the space environment and their likely impact on the Earth’s upper atmosphere is set to play a crucial role in providing critical support to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and a host of space-reliant technology sectors, such as telecommunication, broadcasting, navigation, and defence.
“Aditya-L1 spacecraft will enhance the capability of the Centre for Excellence in Space Sciences India (CESSI) at the Indian Institute of Science Education & Research, Kolkata (IISER-Kolkata) to forecast extreme space weather events, like solar flares and geomagnetic storms, and timely forecasts that can prevent a catastrophe,” said space scientist Dibyendu Nandi, known for his studies related to the Sun’s activity and space weather.
CESSI is an important partner in ISRO’s Aditya-L1 mission since it is the only organisation in the country that delivers operational space weather forecasts for assessing and predicting space atmospheric occurrences. “While the Aditya-L1 satellite has instruments to observe the birth of solar storms and their manifestation in the near-Earth space environment, the proposed DISHA satellites will measure the impact of these storms in the Earth’s ionosphere,” said ISRO Advisory Committee on Space Aeronomy Satellite Study Team chair D Pallamraju.
To understand the physical mechanisms at work and develop forecasts about catastrophic space weather occurrences, computer models and data analytics are required. “This is where CESSI, IISER Kolkata comes in with its unique modelling and forecasting capabilities that only few organizations around the world possess,” said Nandi.
CESSI now uses satellite observations to study the Sun’s activity and space weather, as well as machine learning-based big data analytics and computer modelling to forecast solar flares and the arrival time and speed of space plasma storms that cause geomagnetic disturbances. CESSI predicted the February 3, 2022 solar storm that destroyed 40 of the 49 Starlink satellites launched by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space technology company.