The ultimate sunscreen? UK scientists launch £3.75m bid to predict the weather in space!

Updated: July 1, 2020

IT’S nice to know that we can all sleep safe and sound whilst scientists beaver away to prevent us from being frazzled by the sun.

A consortium of British universities has launched a bid to improve forecasts for solar superstorms and other types of space weather that can disrupt the upper atmosphere of the Earth.

In fact, you could say they’re building the ultimate sunscreen (…well sort of).

Experts say the research is vital to protect the planet from eruptions of radiation and plasma from the sun, which can wreck communications and power networks, and risk the safety of air passengers and astronauts.

But don’t worry to much, the most extreme space weather event on record occurred way back in 1859, when a huge solar flare and a coronal mass ejection from the sun reached the Earth.

It affected telegraph systems around the world, giving operators electric shocks and in some cases allowing telegraph operators to continue sending and receiving messages despite the power supplies having been cut.

Northern Lights

It also resulted in the Northern Lights, which are caused by space weather, being seen as far south as the Caribbean.

“This level of extreme event tends to occur every 100 years or so,” says Dr Sean Elvidge of the University of Birmingham.

“While it’s not possible to be overdue an event of this nature, it is likely that one will occur sometime before the end of this century.”

In the light of this, the University of Birmingham is leading a £3.75m research programme, in conjunction with Lancaster University and the Universities of Bath, Leicester, Leeds and Southampton, and the British Antarctic Survey.

The results will be used to further improve the existing monitoring capability of the Met Office. The research project is part of a wider £20m programme called SWIMMR (Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk) funded by UK Research and Innovation.

So there you have it – the rest of us can slap on the sunscreen and enjoy the nice weather safe in the knowledge that somebody else is doing all the worrying!

Main Photo: courtesy of Pixabay / WikiImages

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