We propose a new program, GGS/SOLARMAX, that is designed to be a key element of NASA’s Sun-Earth connection program and will result in significant advances in our understanding of the Sun Earth connected system and the predictive capabilities of the large-scale geospace system response during all phases of the solar cycle.
The objectives of the GGS/SOLARMAX program are encompassed in three themes that will be pursued through the year 2001:
- Science theme: Quantitatively analyze the fundamental characteristics of the Solar-Terrestrial system before and during solar maximum to complement the seminal achievements by ISTP.
- Technology theme: Develop an information base for assessment of the impact to high technology systems of energetic and transient phenomena in the Sun-Earth system that are known to increase dramatically during solar maximum.
- Public service theme: Exploit the space and ground-based ISTP assets to provide exceptional service to the scientific, educational and industrial communities during the maximum phase of the solar cycle
The science objectives for the GGS/SOLARMAX program are derived primarily from the established fact that geospace is a highly variable system having microphysical time scales of fractions of a second to the tens of years, characteristic of long term changes associated with the solar cycle. The commensurate response of the Earth’s magnetosphere yields a system that is dynamically different at solar maximum from solar minimum since the frequency and intensity of disturbances increases significantly in response to solar activity. Some of the most dramatic solar terrestrial events that characterize the solar maximum period are great magnetic storms which can have a major impact on technological systems like power distribution grids, geosynchronous spacecraft and potentially, crewed missions in low Earth orbit. Large solar energetic particle events associated with shock accelerated particles from CMEs constitute one of the greatest risks to crews in space since shielding is impractical or ineffective and reliable prediction methods have not been developed. A thorough analysis of these most significant events of the solar cycle is a primary requisite of our understanding of the Sun-Earth connected system.
The technology theme addresses the fact that our society is increasingly dependent on advanced technology even for common activities in everyday life. The increasing sophistication of space-based systems makes them particularly vulnerable to solar terrestrial energetic events. Of particular significance within the GGS/SOLARMAX effort is the predictive capability that will be developed to anticipate effects and achieve long term assessments of solar activity and its potential effect on human-made systems.
The coordinated development of ISTP data acquisition, processing and distribution, networks, advanced data visualization and science planning and analysis tools has made possible an unprecedented level of awareness about and access to information about events taking place in the Sun-Earth system, both by the science community and the public in general. This highly developed system will be further enhanced during the SOLARMAX mission to support the research effort, public outreach and education activities and access to solar terrestrial data by the industrial sector.
The ISTP/GGS resources that have been developed as a central part of ISTP are fundamental components required to address the science objectives of GGS/SOLARMAX. The next four years provide an unprecedented potential for discoveries and a unique opportunity to obtain quantitative understanding of the Sun -Earth connected system, from solar minimum through solar maximum.
- Discover the cause(s) of the great geospace storms during solar maximum.
- Determine the geospace response to intense solar events.
- Quantify the ionospheric role as a source of magnetospheric plasma.
- Understand the role of reconnection in the global dynamics of space plasmas.
- Develop predictive capabilities for extreme conditions.
Public Service Theme:
- Determine the flux energies and radiation associated with major transient solar activity.
- Trapped radiation in the Earth's magnetosphere.
- Time-varying electric current systems.
- Transient ionospheric conductivity enhancements.
- Provide expanded access by the world scientific community to the vast amount of data generated by ISTP/GGS and eventually by SOLARMAX to foster and support collaborative research.
- Enhance public awareness about the significance and scientific results of ISTP/GGS and SOLARMAX through program supported elements such as multimedia products, enhanced World Wide Web pages, public exhibits, and educational activities.