South Africa: How the Sun Can Mess With Our Tech


Tripped electric circuits? Faulty GPS, disrupted communication signals? They might all be caused by space weather events.

Both space weather and terrestrial weather begin with the sun. The star at the centre of our solar system is always active in the background.

The US's NASA and the Space Science Directorate of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) in Hermanus are among the agencies in charge of observing, monitoring and recording the sun's activity, from sunspots to a multitude of space weather events. The main ones originate on the surface of the Sun, like solar flares, solar wind, coronal mass ejections, solar prominences and high-speed streams.

These events are detected by solar telescopes based both on Earth and in space, which observe using various filters.

Dr Pierre Cilliers, a researcher at the space science directorate of SANSA, responsible for the development of space weather products for the air traffic navigation community, explains: "We have significantly fewer instruments and data to build space weather models, and in many respects a significantly more complex system than the terrestrial weather system. Space weather prediction is still far behind and can only be done with reasonable accuracy for an hour ahead, once we have...

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