Cosmic rays and other space weather factors that influence satellite operation and technology, people's health, climate change, and agriculture production

Lev Dorman*, Lev Pustil’nik, Gregory Yom Din, David Shai Applbaum

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This paper is an example of how fundamental research in Cosmic Ray (CR) Astrophysics and Geophysics can be applied to several very important modern practical problems. Monitoring of space weather using online cosmic ray data allows for the prediction of space phenomena which are not only dangerous for satellites’ electronics and astronauts’ health in space, but also for crew and passengers’ health on commercial jets in the atmosphere. In some rare cases this even extends to technology and people on the ground; CR and other space weather factors may even influence climate change and agriculture production. It is well known that during great SEP (Solar Energetic Particle) events, fluxes can be so big that they may destroy the memory of computers and other electronics in space. Furthermore, satellites and other spacecraft may die. Each year, insurance companies pay more than 500,000,000 dollars for these failures; if there were ever an event as large as the one that happened on February 23, 1956, almost all satellites would be destroyed in 1-2 hours, costing 10-20 billion dollars. This is in addition to the obvious downsides of the destruction of satellite telecommunications. In these periods, it is necessary to switch off some part of the electronics for a short time to protect computer memories. These periods are also dangerous for astronauts on space-ships, and passengers and crew in commercial jets (especially during S5-S7 radiation storms). The problem is, how exactly does one forecast these dangerous phenomena? We show that exact forecasts can be made by using high-energy particles (those having an energies of about 2-10 GeV/nucleon and higher), whose transportation from the Sun is characterized by a much bigger diffusion coefficient than that of small and middle energy particles. Because of this, high energy particles arrive from the Sun much earlier (8-20 minutes after their acceleration and escape into the solar wind) than the majority of the smaller energy particles that cause dangerous situations for electronics and people's health (these arrive 30-60 minutes later). We describe here the principles and experience of the automatically-working programs “SEP-Search-1 min”, “SEP-Search-2 min”,”SEP-Search-5 min”, developed and checked in the Emilio Segre' Observatory of the Israel Cosmic Ray and Space Weather Center (Mt. Hermon, 2050 m above sea level). The second step is automatic determination of the flare energetic particle spectrum, and then automatic determination of the diffusion coefficient in interplanetary space, time of ejection and energy spectrum of SEP at the source, and then the forecast of expected SEP flux and radiation hazard for space-probes in space, satellites in the magnetosphere, jets and various objects in the atmosphere and on the ground. We will describe also the theory and experience of high energy cosmic ray data use for forecasting major geomagnetic storms accompanied by Forbush effects (which influence very much satellites, communications, navigation systems, people's health, and high-level technology systems in space, in the atmosphere, and on the ground).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHomage to the Discovery of Cosmic Rays, the Meson-Muon and Solar Cosmic Rays
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages118
ISBN (Electronic)9781628080421
ISBN (Print)9781626189980
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013


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