Space weather – the monitoring and prediction of disturbances in our near-space environment and how they are controlled by the Sun - is now recognised as an important aspect of understanding our Earth and protecting vital assets such as orbiting satellites and power grids. Europlanet 2020-RI aims to transform the science of space weather, by extending its scope throughout the Solar System. An entirely new Virtual Access Service, “Planetary Space Weather Services” (PSWS), has therefore been included in the project submitted to the INFRAIA-1-2014-2015 call of the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. In order to provide ‘Phase Zero’ space weather related resources during the initial stages of the project, a coordinated selection of models and tools related to planetary and solar environments already available or in development can be accessed here.
Service Activities (VA1-PSWS)
VA1-PSWS will make five entirely new ‘toolkits’ accessible to the research community and to industrial partners planning for space missions: a general planetary space weather toolkit, as well as three toolkits dedicated to the following key planetary environments: Mars (in support of the ESA ExoMars missions to be launched in 2016 and 2018), comets (building on the expected success of the ESA Rosetta mission), and outer planets (in preparation for the ESA JUICE mission to be launched in 2022). This will give the European planetary science community new methods, interfaces, functionalities and/or plug-ins dedicated to planetary space weather in the tools and models available within the partner institutes. It will also create a novel “event-diary” toolkit aiming at predicting and detecting planetary events like meteor showers and impacts.
- To develop the notion of “planetary space situational awareness” activities that are ongoing for Earth as an issue and object for research throughout the Solar System. Europlanet will work closely with the winners of the European Commission’s PROTEC-1-2014 “Space Weather” call, which aims to “observe and to predict a range of solar events that may impact the near Earth environment including orbiting satellites and ground based systems”;
- To create a step change in “space weather” monitoring and prediction, in particular of /disturbances and extreme events, to include other planets in the Solar System. This will have the practical impact of being able to predict how space weather events manifest at different planetary environments as the corresponding structures in the plasma outflow from the Sun – the Solar Wind - evolve and propagate outwards through the Solar System;
- To extend the prediction and monitoring of meteor showers from encounters with comet meteoroid streams, which can also potentially endanger orbiting satellites, throughout the Solar System;
- To test and validate models throughout the Solar System. By extending of the know-how established at Earth to new environments we will test current understanding in new sets of conditions, and hence strengthen our ability to make such predictions in our own environment. In particular activities and protocols will implement the recommendations of the upcoming COSPAR roadmap on Space Weather;
- To lay the basis for allowing Solar System space missions, whether they are on a planetary surface, orbiting or travelling, to be protected in the same way that Earth-orbiting and ground-based facilities will be protected by current “space situational awareness” initiatives;
- To make demonstrators of prototyped and consolidated services publicly available within the PSWS to professional planetary scientists, industry, the space agencies and amateur astronomers;
- To make five entirely new ‘toolkits’ accessible to the research community and to industrial partners planning for space missions: a general planetary space weather toolkit, three toolkits dedicated to the following key planetary environments: Mars (in support of the ESA ExoMars missions to be launched in 2016 and 2018), comets (building on the expected success of the ESA Rosetta mission), and outer planets (in preparation for the ESA JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) mission to be launched in 2022, and as a potential support service for the JUNO mission due to arrive at and start orbiting Jupiter in 2016); it will also inform planning for the BepiColombo mission due to launch to Mercury in 2016, as well as a planetary event-diary toolkit that will link ephemerides of Solar System objects to predictable meteor showers that impact terrestrial planet surfaces and giant planet atmospheres.
VA1-PSWS will give the European planetary scientists for the first time new methods, interfaces, functionalities and/or plug-ins dedicated to planetary space weather and diary in the form of tools and models available within the partner institutes. weather services operational in Europe at the end of the programme.
Research Activities (JRA4-PSWS)
JRA4-PSWS will set up the infrastructure necessary to transition to a full planetary space weather service within the lifetime of the project. A variety of tools (in the form of web applications, standalone software, or numerical models in various degrees of implementation) are available for tracing propagation of planetary or solar events through the Solar System and modelling the response of the planetary environment (surfaces, atmospheres, ionospheres, and magnetospheres) to those events. As these tools were usually not originally designed for planetary event prediction or space weather applications, additional development is required for these purposes. The overall objectives of the JRA4-PSWS will be to review, test, improve and adapt methods and tools available within the partner institutes in order to make prototype planetary event/diary and space weather services operational through VA1-PSWS at the end of the programme.
- To define a service for planetary event and planetary space weather predictions;
- To develop new methods, interfaces, functionalities and/or plug-ins dedicated to planetary space weather from the tools and models already available within the partner institutes;
- To define planetary proxies and reliability factors for planetary space weather applications;
- To validate, compare and enhance the capability of the existing models and tools in order to predict the impact of solar events in the vicinity of Solar System objects; this will in turn lead to a strengthening of our capabilities for robust prediction in the terrestrial environment.
- To identify user requirements, develop a methodology for issuing event alerts, and link those to the planetary event and space weather predictions;
- To facilitate discovery or prediction announcements within the PSWS user community in order to watch or warn against specific events;
- To set up dedicated professional and/or amateur observation campaigns, disseminate contextual information for science data analysis, and enable safety operations for planet-orbiting spacecraft against the risks of impacts from solar wind /disturbances and meteors.