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Mars Space Weather Alert (MSWA) System

A Mars Space Weather Alert (MSWA) system would take a comprehensive approach to providing information to astronauts on the surface of Mars, as well as those going to and from the planet.

A recent paper by James L. Green, Chuanfei Dong, Michael Hesse, C. Alex Young, Vladimir Airapetian details how an MSWA system might be approached. (SF writers have already contributed the phrase space-weather men, which might be applied to these researchers.)


(The modeled Martian responses to an extreme Carrington-type
SW event before (A) and at the peak of the solar storm (B))

Space weather observations and modeling at Mars have begun but they must be significantly increased to support the future of Human Exploration on the Red Planet. A comprehensive space weather understanding of a planet without a global magnetosphere and a thin atmosphere is very different from our situation at Earth so there is substantial fundamental research remaining. It is expected that the development of suitable models will lead to a comprehensive operational Mars space weather alert (MSWA) system that would provide rapid dissemination of information to Earth controllers, astronauts in transit, and those in the exploration zone (EZ) on the surface by producing alerts that are delivered rapidly and are actionable.

To illustrate the importance of such a system, we use a magnetohydrodynamic code to model an extreme Carrington-type coronal mass ejection (CME) event at Mars. The results show a significant induced surface field of nearly 3000 nT on the dayside that could radically affect unprotected electrical systems that would dramatically impact human survival on Mars. Other associated problems include coronal mass ejection (CME) shock-driven acceleration of solar energetic particles producing large doses of ionizing radiation at the Martian surface.

In summary, along with working more closely with international partners, the next Heliophysics Decadal Survey must include a new initiative to meet expected demands for space weather forecasting in support of humans living and working on the surface of Mars. It will require significant effort to coordinate NASA and the international community contributions.

(From Space Weather Observations, Modeling, and Alerts in Support of Human Exploration of Mars.)

Science fiction fans can't wait. They've been getting hints about the idea of space weather systems for at least the last eighty years. Most recently, fans were treated to a beautifully realized storm on Mars in The Martian, a 2015 film directed by Ridley Scott from the excellent 2011 novel by Andy Weir.


(Storm scene from The Martian [2015])

In the film, the storm center is envisioned on several screens:


(Weather central - The Martian movie edition)

As far as I know, the earliest descriptions of "space weather" in science fiction are in The Storm by legendary sf writer A.E. van Vogt.

On the three-dimensional map at weather headquarters on the planet Kaider III, the storm was colored orange. Which meant it was the biggest of the four hundred odd storms raging in the Fifty Suns region of the Lesser Magellanic Cloud...
(Read more at space weather map)

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/29/2022)

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