Due to our increasing reliance on technology, a European Space Agency study suggests that a major space weather event could cause more than €15 billion damage in Europe. Space weather can disrupt the Earth's protective magnetic bubble and upper atmosphere, affecting the satellites we rely on for navigation, weather forecasting and telecommunications and could even affect terrestrial power grids.
The European Space Weather Week (ESWW) conference brings together the world's space weather experts. Scientists and engineers from the space industry will meet with satellite operators, power grid technicians, navigation specialists and the aviation industry to work together to better understand the risks and to minimise the effect of the next big space weather event to affect the Earth.
Dr Mario Bisi, Space Weather Scientist, STFC RAL Space: “We are delighted that Glasgow will host the prestigious European Space Weather Week 2020 conference, the first time this event has come to the UK. Glasgow is a very fitting location because scientists based in the city have studied the science of space weather ever since the days of Lord Kelvin. The 2020 meeting will show how very far we have come in fulfilling Kelvin's vision and the UK's leadership in the field."
While technology makes us more vulnerable, spacecraft are helping us to better understanding the complex processes behind space weather events and, with new ESA and NASA missions currently in development, help us to predict them.
This is an exciting time for solar and space weather science. The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA are currently developing space missions with UK scientists and engineers which will help scientists predict space weather events heading towards Earth. In 2020 ESA's Solar Orbiter mission is set to launch. UK institutions are involved in four of the 10 instruments on board Solar Orbiter while the majority of the spacecraft was built by Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage. Solar Orbiter will provide long duration observations of the Sun for the first time, observing the build-up of events like solar storms.
Mark Gibbs, Head of Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre: ““The UK is at the forefront of space weather knowledge and technology and the decision to host this conference here is indicative of our global reputation within the industry. This reputation has been developed through risk assessment work, leadership in the ESA space weather mission and our operational space weather forecasting capabilities.
“The growing importance and economic growth of the space sector in the UK is highlighted by the number of recent key space announcements by the UK Space Agency about the Newquay Spaceport, National Space Council and the development of a Spaceport in Sutherland."
The ESWW Conference is being co-hosted by the Science and Technology Facilities Council's RAL Space and the UK Met Office with support from the UK Space Agency and the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and the City of Glasgow. The conference will be held at the Technology Innovation Centre at the University of Strathclyde, which is itself a prominent player in the UK space ecosystem.
Image: Artist’s impression of ESA’s Solar Orbiter. Credit: ESA/A. Baker, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO