Scientists of the SINP Space Monitoring Center observe space weather for two years

The Head of the Space Monitoring Center of SINP, DSc. Vladimir Kalegaev

The Head of the Space Monitoring Center of SINP, DSc. Vladimir Kalegaev told us about the work of the Center and its prospects.

- Vladimir, please, tell us about the work of the Center, beginning from obtaining data from the sources and up to the presentation of the results for users.

- I'd like to start with a brief story about the development of the Center. Primary it was organized for the storage of space experimental data in a database. Then we developed a site (, which allows the user to get this information up to now. Later we included the functionality of real-time data. Besides, the user get ready analysis and prediction of separate factors of space medium under the influence of solar activity - so-called space weather.

How does the Center work? We have a list of parameters, which are necessary for making a conclusion about the processes in the near-Earth space. We use data of SINP space experiments onboard Russian spacecrafts and information on other space experiments from Internet. We get all necessary data automatically by means of our computers connecting to the frontend servers. Then the data is analyzed by means of operational models of the solar wind propagation, geomagnetic activity, radiation environment in automatic mode. As a result we obtain a collection of data concerning the current state of the near-Earth space, which is published on

I'd like to note the giant contribution of the following scientists of the Space Monitoring Department: S. Bobrovnikov, V. Barinova, I. Myagkova, S. Dolenko, Yu. Shugay, V. Shiroky, L. Mukhametdinova to the development of the different systems for this site.

- What is the difference of your Center from the others?

- As all Russian scientific organizations we have a historically formed specialization - space radiation. SINP MSU is the basic center of expertize in the field of space radiation environment research. A lot of scientific equipment was developed and manufactured in SINP for Russian space missions, space radiation models were developed by SINP scientists. Consistently, analysis of space weather radiation aspects is also carried out in SINP.

The characteristic property of our Space Monitoring Center is that on our site we describe current state of the near-Earth space, mostly - radiation state.

We follow such phenomena as sudden increasing of space radiation. It happens when high-energy particles flux come to the Earth from the Sun after the solar flare. Such events are very complicated for prediction even after registration of the flare, because ptotons can come to the Earth in approximately 30 minutes, but they also can take the sideline and we'll see nothing near the Earth. Therefore it is necessary to monitor variations of such particles fluxes continuously.

High-energy flux increasings can cause failures in operation of satellite electronic systems. High-energy particles pass through the covering of the spacecraft and destroy internal structure of electronic micro-circuits. Up-to-date improved technologies which are used for the production of more tiny electronics make it more subjected to the dangerous influence of high-energy particles. Analyzing possible effects of solar protons it is important to know location of the spacecraft and the structure of magnetospheric magnetic field which depends on the level of geomagnetic storminess.

The purpose of the space weather system of SINP is to give a warning of possible changes of radiation environment which can happen due to solar or geomagnetic activity.

- Does the user see current sistuation in the Earth's magnetosphere on your site?

- "Current" is a relative notion. Time is needed for receiving of primary telemetry information from the satellite to the Earth-based data-receiving station, where it will be pre-processed. So immediate data display is impossible. Depending on the type of the spacecraft's orbit and its transmitting system, depending on the Earth-based system of data processing time delay varies from several minutes to several hours. Such delays are acceptable for analysis of the radiation environment in space.

Coming in line with the shedule of two Russian satellites with SINP operational equipment onboard we get data from geostationary satellite "Electro-L1" every 30 minutes and receive data from the low-orbit satellite "Meteor-M1" twice or triply a day/ These two satellites are intended for registration of electrons and protons flux in the Earth's magnetosphere and they give us the basic information about the space radiation environment.

For the maximum full analysis of spce weather we need to know data from the foreign satellites. Fortunately, this data is presented on sepcialized sites. The quality of the up-to-date Earth-based data receiving and processing stations allows to get such information with reasonable time delays. For instance, the system of data processing of the geostationary satellite GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the USA needs about five minutes for preparing of the data on the charged particles fluxes for the NOAA site of space weather. In this case as in the case with the Russian geostationary spacecrafts we receive data with a small, but acceptable delay.

The satellite ACE (Advanced Composition Explorer, NASA), which observe the solar wind parameters near Lagrange point L1 at the distance of about one and a half million of kilometers from the Earth is of particular importance for the system of space weather monitoring. In this point terrestrial and solar attractions are equal, therefore the satellite can stay continuously in the area of the solar wind flow. Due to its location between the Earth and the Sun the satellite gives us information about the plasma paramteres approximately one hour prior these fluxes come to the Earth. And it provides us an opportunity for prediction, because we know interplanetary conditions at the Earth's orbit well in advance.

The Sun is a source of the changes of radiation state in the near-Earth space. The satellite SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA) prouces solar images in different frequency ranges. They provide an opportunity to make conclusions about the processes which can become crucial for the radiation state near the Earth. Observations within the UV frequency range gives us solar images with dark and light structures. Dark structures are coronal holes, light ones - active regions, which can produce flares, energy particles, coronal mass ejections and, probably, following magnetic storm in the Earth's magnetosphere. SINP scientist Yulia Shughay developed an operational model of high-speed solar wind fluxes propagation which is used now on our site. This model allows to evaluate the speed of the solar wind, which will come to the Earth's orbit in three days, by the square of the coronal holes.

Using these data we can conclude if there will be events potentially dangerous for spacecrafts in the near-Earth space. If we seesuch situation, we make a warning.

- For instance, whom do you warn?

We've already started cooperation with organizations which use our conclusion for spacecrafts control. FOr instance, the Central Specialized Design Bureau Progress (CSKB-Progress) from Samara get our operative information as regular space weather reports. If some seriuos events happen they ask us to send these reports more often in order to take a decision on spacecrafts control. Now we discuss a possibility for our interaction in this field at arm's length.

- If data is open, what is the reason for organizations to execute a contract?

- Really, the users can take data from our sites. All data is open. But it can be not adjusted for the particular problems, which they are interested in. For instance, we can give information about radiation conditions at the given orbit.

- Two years passed, as the Center started its work in open-access mode, what are the results?

- Currently we are at some interim stage. We are preparing an proposal concerning development of an informational system of radiation space monitoring. It is a plan of our further development. We suppose that the Ministry of the Education and Science will include this proposal into the subject of the Federal Special Purpose Programme and it will become a basis for the competitive tender, in which we'll take part.

At the same time we continue improvements of the system, studies of the responses of different organizations interested in our system in order to conform the requests of our users.

- Please, tell us about this activity in more details.

- We need to expand the number of the sources of solar solar wind parameters data, to improve the models, to expand the number and to improve the quality of these models, because now we can still predict only a small part of the processes happened in the magnetosphere, including radiation ones. Weneed to develop operational models which will work independently, autonomous and without mistakes. This is the basic direction of our activity.

- There are a lot of such centers with open data all over the world: in Russina, in the USA, in Japan... Is it necessary to reproduce them, maybe it will be better to join forces?

- The Space Weather Centers are organized by different administrations, scientific organizations, universities, each of them has its own specialization in different directions of space research, crucial for space weather applications: solar physics, ionosphere, geomagnetic disturbances, radiation conditions. Each organization has trust in its own center. They trust in the models, developed there, trust in people who are working there, etc.

At the same time presence of several centers allows to compare the predictions, because every model has its own domain of applicability; there are possible mistakes and large mistakes under some conditions. If different centers make the same forecasts, it means that predicted event is really verified and confirmed.

- Do you discuss a variant of aliance with some other center, or maybe with several centers?

- I doubt that we'll join some other center. Every center has its own infrastructure and smooth-running software systems, therefore any outside interference may disturb their operation. We can collaborate: change data - both experimental data and results of calculations. We conduct the talks with some centers, for instance, with NASA center in Greenbelt. We still have not come to an arrangement, but both parties are interested in joint research, although we have not set forth principles for our relations.

- Do you plan to improve technological infrastructure of the Center?

- yes, we do. Just now we are going to organize a room for real-time displaying of the current space weather. It is a necessary supplement to the computer system and information storage systems. NASA spaceweather centers in Boulder and Greenbelt are organized basin on this principle. They are already exploit to the utmost. The scientists of the centers are able to see all available infoamrtion and make their own conclusions about the space environment conditions.

It's impossible to formulate everything as algorithms, understandable for the computers, there is also some subconscious scientific comprehension. People specialized in this field can see and foresee more things than we can input into the program. Therefore, surely, real-time observations and data analysis made by a specialist in the field of space weather are very important. Discussion results in a synergetic effect which leads to better understnading of the processes happened in the near-Earth space.