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Space Weather Observatory

Space Weather Observatory

Start date
1 January, 2017
End date
2 April, 2023

The space weather observatory programme is designed to understand how solar variations affect the Earth’s space radiation environment, upper atmosphere and climate in the Polar Regions.

National capability science

Decades of space radiation environment expertise, combined with knowledge of user needs gained through direct interaction with commercial satellite operators, Government policy officials and insurance underwriters, has enabled BAS to lead an international scientific project called SPACECAST to develop a space weather forecasting system. BAS knowledge and expertise in this field provides also advice to Government that helps inform policy.

Sustained observations

Year-round observation of space weather events acquired at key sites (e.g., Halley VI Research Station) improve our understanding of the complex chain of Sun-to-Earth processes.  They underpin assessment of the likely impact of severe space weather events and design of mitigation guidelines.

Societal and policy impact

Research and mathematical modelling generated from our space weather sustained observations programme are critical for shaping industry policy thinking on resilience to natural hazards.

BAS has adapted its research models into the SPACECAST system  to forecast risk of satellite damage.  This system is being used by commercial companies including the largest satellite operator in Europe as well as other UK agencies.

Our space weather research team contributes its knowledge and expertise to the UK Government’s House of Commons Science and Technology Committees and to the National Risk Assesment of severe space weather events.

Professor Richard Horne is interviewed about space weather

Our research ambition for this project is to understand how solar variations affect the Earth’s space radiation environment, upper atmosphere and climate in the Polar Regions; and to use this knowledge to inform industry and policy decision-making and provide real-time situation awareness for satellite operators.  To achieve this we:

  • Work in partnership with international colleagues to measure, simulate and predict changes in space radiation environment as they affect satellites, and develop realistic scenarios of severe space weather events
  • Deploy state-of-the-art technologies, such as High Frequency over-the-horizon radars, to understand coupling between the Sun, solar wind and the upper atmosphere, and the transport of charged particles in the radiation belts
  • Simulate  and predict the Earth’s radiation environment for satellites using the BAS radiation belt model

Halley radars

Studying winds, waves, and tides in the upper atmosphere across the polar regions.