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Space Radiation Hazards and the Vision for Space Exploration: Report of a Workshop
and making timely predictions of the space radiation environment is essential for implementation of the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE). Until now, there has been little need for the separate solar and space physics and human spaceflight communities to communicate and cooperate with each other. Many of the participants at the conference for the first time focused on ways that their research corresponded with NASA’s needs to support humans traveling beyond low Earth orbit for the first time in decades. Scientists realize that there is significant overlap in interests between the solar and space physics community and the human spaceflight community and that the space physics community can assist the goals of the Vision for Space Exploration.
UNDERSTANDING OF SOLAR PHYSICS
The understanding of solar activity and its relation to coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and flares has made tremendous progress on the basis of the contributions of a series of spacecraft, such as Yohkoh, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, and most recently the Ramati High Energy Solar Spectrographic Imager. Emerging technologies developed for heliosesimology have shown their ability to forecast active regions before they come around the solar limb. This allows predictive power for large solar active regions, which are the source of most of the strongest flares and the fastest, most hazardous CMEs. These helioseismological techniques are currently implemented and perfected to allow following active regions throughout the entire solar rotation.
There are other observational techniques that are being implemented, many of them in early stages of development. They involve global measures of the free magnetic field before eruptions, the total transport of magnetic-free energy through the photosphere on all relevant temporal scales, and the identification of coronal morphology changes up to 1 day before eruption, for example, through the identification of coronal density enhancement.
Major progress in the predictive capabilities is expected to come from a number of parallel thrusts, which were addressed during this workshop. For example:
An improvement of observations of the boundary conditions in the corona; this improvement can include “force-free” vector magnetograms in the chromosphere or the corona;
The assimilation of data to the global coronal magnetic-field specification from radio, x-ray/extreme ultraviolet radiation, and imaging spectroscopy, as well as coronal seismology;
Detailed observational determination of the magnetic topology in filament channels to determine the CME eruption mechanism; and
The development of self-consistent magnetohydrodynamic models that couple the photosphere and the corona, with a vigorous investigation of CME initiation processes.
FUNDAMENTAL UNDERSTANDING OF HELIOPHYSICS
There are currently over a dozen NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Department of Defense (DOD) spacecraft obtaining scientific measurements of solar wind, energetic particles, magnetic fields, and electromagnetic radiation from many vantage points in the heliosphere. They provide data to test and guide the development of theoretical models as well as supporting the operational space weather community. These spacecraft are located at strategic vantage points in the heliosphere from the L1 Lagrange point (1.5 million km upstream from Earth), to inside Earth’s magnetosphere, and out to the termination shock (near the boundary with the interstellar medium where the solar wind slows down from supersonic to subsonic speeds).