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Monitoring Active Region Development on the Far-Side of the Sun


Summary:  Space weather impacts a growing number of technologies that our society depends on. The need for space weather forecasts arose in the 1940s when the first radio communications were established. The Department of Defense relies on many technologies, such as early warning radars and satellite navigation,that are susceptible to space weather. The list of civil activities that are impacted include, electric power, commercial airlines, oil exploration, satellites, space exploration, agriculture, surveying and road building, just to name a few. Forecasting space weather has become a critical activity for NOAA, the US Air Force, and a number of space weather forecast offices around the world. With the increased need for space weather information there has grown a network of commercial service providers who provide specific and tailored space weather forecast services to both industry and government. Any or all of the entities would be interested in new techniques for forecasting space weather.


Most major space weather events originate from the Sun. Seen from Earth, the sun rotates once every 27 days. Solar active regions grow and recede as they rotate around the sun. Knowing how an active region develops while it is on the far-side of the Sun (not visible from Earth) helps forecasters predict what will happen when that active region rotates back to the Earth-directed side of the Sun. Techniques to better understand the development of solar activity on the far side of the sun improve the 5-10 day forecasts of space weather storms.


Project Goals:  There are several newly developed techniques that allow us to monitor developments on the far-side of the sun. These include helioselismology (solar surface motions that originate from major eruptions) and observing the faint light scattered off the solar atmosphere beyond the sun. The recent NASA STEREO mission has flown satellites to observe the far-side of the Sun but these satellites will move beyond the ideal locations and become much less useful for far-side imaging. Instead, they have provided data that helps to develop and validate new techniques. They also proved how important knowledge of the far-side of the Sun can be to space weather forecasting.


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:

·         Assess the needs of the potential customers and users of this product.

·         Evaluate several different techniques for monitoring active region growth or decay on the far-side of the Sun.

o Test for accuracy and consistency.

o Determine the long-term reliability of the data required for making the assessments.

·         Select one or more techniques for further development.

·         Develop algorithms and test and evaluate them against the available far-side image data.

·         Quantify the results showing the uncertainties and errors in both growth/decay rates and position.

·         Deliver a report and documentation on how to monitor solar activity on the farside of the Sun. Provide prototype code.


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

·         Develop a real-time prototype of the product for test and evaluation

·         Establish links to realtime data

·         Develop code that could be made operational

·         Document code for possible transition to operations

·         Run the test code in realtime and evaluate the performance.

·         Develop products based on customer needs and requirements

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