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New space weather service to benefit Africa

Written by More Matshediso
Imagine being able to monitor weather patterns in space just by looking at 15 high definition 46 inch screens each displaying live satellite images of the sun in different wave-lengths.

Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane in the middle with the team who will be monitoring weather patterns in space at the upgraded Space Weather Regional Warning Centre in Hermanus.This is now a reality with the South African National Space Agency's (SANSA) upgrading its Space Weather Regional Warning Centre with an information wall that consists of this technology.

The wall presents real time data from SANSA's space monitoring instruments positioned across Southern Africa, Antarctica and Marion and Gough Island.

"The upgraded system provides our team with a superior platform to monitor the sun and its activity in far greater detail for more accurate space weather forecasts, warnings and alerts, as well as environmental data on space weather conditions for use by governments and private industry users in Africa."

 "This new facility will undoubtedly add significantly to our space weather service offerings improve our understanding of our solar terrestrial environment and enable SANSA to further leverage the benefits of space science and technology for the African continent,"  said SANSA managing director for Space Science Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell.

SANSA uses the information from the centre to send warnings to organisations that may be affected when weather conditions are not looking good.

“The defence, communications, navigation, aviation and energy sectors are especially vulnerable to the effects of space weather," said McKinnell.

SANSA Chief Executive Officer Val Munsami said extreme space weather storms are a risk that could endanger the economy costing South Africa billions if not mitigated effectively.

The centre is mandated to develop South Africa's space weather capabilities, provide government, industry and the public with a space weather operations system and improve the understanding and awareness of space weather in Africa.

"Governments in several countries, including the United States of America and United Kingdom have recently listed space weather on their National Risk Registers," said Munsami.

Munsami said the state-of-the-art facility is integral to protecting satellites and Africa's national power grids and communications and navigation systems from the harmful effects of space weather.

 The Space Weather Regional Warning Centre which is located in Hermanus in the Western Cape is also the only one on the African continent.