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UH Mānoa researcher receives $2.5M grant to study space weather

Astronauts work to install the alpha magnetic spectrometer on the International Space Station on May 26, 2011.
NASA
Astronauts work to install the alpha magnetic spectrometer on the International Space Station on May 26, 2011.

When you think of weather, you might get ideas about rain fronts and trade winds — but in space it’s a lot more complicated.

A project led by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Department of Physics and Astronomy has received a $2.5 million grant to study space weather.

Monitoring space weather is crucial for decisions touching everything from astronaut safety to satellite launches, says associate professor Veronica Bindi, the project’s principal investigator.

"You check if it's good weather or a hurricane. The same is when you plan a space mission. You want the space weather to be good," Bindi said.

A large part of the grant will be used to build a neutron monitor on Haleakalā and a space weather control center at the UH Mānoa campus.

These two new resources will work closely with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an instrument on the International Space Station that measures particles in space.

"Essentially, the weather is represented by all these particles that are coming from space. Particles that are generated by other stars, but they are also generated by our sun," Bindi explained.

The construction will take approximately three years — just in time for the next solar maximum. That’s when the sun is extremely active.

The extra particles emitted from the sun can cause more power outages and disrupt radio communication.

The next solar maximum is expected to take place in 2025 or 2026.

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