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And here is an early space weather warning . . .

Midland scientists are to join telecommunications experts to investigate establishing a European space weather forecasting service.

The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency run by the Ministry of Defence, which has sites across the UK including one in Malvern in Worcestershire, is to play a major role in the space weather centre feasibility study.

The aim is to find a way to provide information about space hazards which threaten communication satellites and power grids on earth.

Space weather is a term used to describe a number of potentially destructive phenomena including magnetic storms, powerful blasts of energetic particles from the sun, dangerous radiation, and man-made debris.

Electrically charged solar particles can knock out satellites and interact with the earth's magnetic field to induce current overloads in grid systems.

Monitoring these phenomena might make it possible to provide an early warning of hazardous space weather, allowing operators of power and communications systems to institute safety measures.

Under a two-year contract from the European Space Agency, DERA joins a consortium led by the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, Oxfordshire.

Other partners include the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, and the French Office National d'Etudes et de Recherches Aerospatiales.

One of DERA's roles will be to assess the potential benefits of a European Space Weather Programme. It will also lead a detailed evaluation of space weather effects on aircraft systems and aircrew, and on radio transmissions through the upper atmosphere.

DERA will also undertake the key task of defining the system requirements and provide technical support.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 29, 2000
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