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Space weather service to benefit Africa

Written by More Matshediso
The monitoring of space weather patterns has become much easier with an upgraded high-tech system.

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?

This is now a reality after the South African National Space Agency's (SANSA) upgraded its Space Weather Regional Warning Centre with an information wall using this technology.

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

"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 and environmental data on space weather conditions used by governments and private industry in Africa.

 "This new facility will 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 space weather conditions don’t look 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 and cost 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. Sectors such as navigation, aviation and energy are especially vulnerable to the effects of space weather.

"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.

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

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