British Interplanetary Society: Space Weather with Cathryn Mitchell

March 8, 2022

Space Weather is the weather of our space environment – solar-driven storms of radiation and magnetic fields that bombard our planet. This natural laboratory around the Earth allows us to explore dynamic physical processes of space weather and its effects are a threat to the operation of multiple electronic and electrical systems such as satellites and even our power grid.

Since the days of Sputnik, artificial satellites and spacecraft have always carried radio transmitters and these radio signals provide a ‘free’ radio resource to sense our environment.  Cathryn was attracted to take up a career in space weather research because she was interested in the new field of radio tomography – the combination of multiple radio observations received from satellites to create ‘pictures’ or images of the space environment around Earth – the ionosphere.  These ionosphere images reveal the mysterious, usually hidden, world all around us in the regions where our atmosphere meets space. They can help to explain long-distance radio propagation – why we can communicate with amateur radio today and yet we could not do so yesterday.   They can tell us when and why our satnav signal is disrupted or less accurate.  When the images  are made into movies, they can show us how our planet reacts to the constant buffeting from the Sun through the solar wind and from solar storms.

Cathryn’s talk will introduce space weather, show the threats that are posed to our modern technology and discuss what is being done to protect us from the threat from a major solar storm.

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