Laboratory Astrophysics and Calibration Facilities

SHP Imperative: NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NSF are encouraged to continue their support of laboratory facilities for accurate measurement of atomic properties and for instrument calibrations as needed for several research programs and missions.42

Justification: Understanding the Sun and heliosphere requires observing them remotely. Diagnosing these observations requires both theoretical knowledge of radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum and well-calibrated instrumentation. Heliophysics research relies heavily on measurements of atomic and molecular collision physics, especially for highly charged ions that dominate X-ray and EUV production. Proper interpretation of observations requires cross sections for calculating excitation, direct and dielectronic recombination, single-charge and multiple-charge exchange, lifetimes, and other values. And calibration facilities (for example, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology) are required for accurate calibration and characterization of NASA and NOAA instrumentation before flight. Without such facilities, the science return from missions and ground-based remote-sensing observations can be substantially limited. The SHP panel assigns high priority to continued support of these facilities by NASA, NOAA, and NSF, preferably through budget line items for laboratory facilities. Enhanced Space Weather Monitoring and Modeling

SHP Imperative: To optimize space weather capabilities, the SHP panel recommends that all future solar and heliospheric space missions and ground-based facilities consider including capabilities for delivering space weather data products. It would be a benefit for NASA to develop multiagency missions whose primary purpose is space weather monitoring. An interagency clearinghouse and archive of space weather data would benefit forecasters, researchers, and model-builders.

Justification: During the past decade, the direct application of solar and heliospheric physics to the protection of life and our high-technology society has demonstrated that the nation’s investment in the field is returning tangible benefits. The SHP panel recognizes the great benefit that would be realized if studies of new NASA missions considered adding space weather measurements and real-time data-transmitting capabilities where appropriate. Examples of possible missions include IMAP, SEE, and L5. The technical and financial effects of adding space weather instrumentation could be addressed by partnering with other NASA directorates or other agencies. Furthermore, the SHP panel recognizes a benefit in NASA consideration of partnering with other agencies to fly missions whose primary purpose is space weather operations but that also have science objectives, such as an L5 mission (§

Currently, ground-based neutron monitors and solar optical telescopes and radiotelescopes provide unique real-time data. In the future, an expansion of SOLIS to a three-site network and completion of FASR and COSMO would provide key data. The panel encourages ground-based facilities to assess data products that could improve space weather capabilities. Finally, to expand the availability of space weather data to forecasters, researchers, and model-builders, the SHP panel encourages development of an interagency clearinghouse for real-time and near-real-time data and an active national archive of current and past space weather data.


42 F.G. Eparvier, The Need for Consistent Funding of Facilities Required for NASA Missions, white paper submitted to the Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics), Paper 69; A. Chutjian et al., Laboratory Solar Physics from Molecular to Highly-Charged Ions, Meeting Future Space Observations of the Solar Plasma and Solar Wind, white paper submitted to the Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics), Paper 39.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement