Z d e n k a  S m i t h
Research Physicist
Space Environment Center, NOAA, Boulder, CO

I continued on with graduate work at Stanford University's Applied Physics Department. There, I enjoyed most of all learning about the Sun. I received an M.Sc., married, and started work at NASA's Ames Research Center, in the Plasma probe group. This group was in charge of the plasma probes on the Pioneer satellites. I was tasked with overseeing the development of programs to reduce (analyze) the data, and to investigate the recently discovered temperature anisotropy (non-symmetrical shape) of the solar wind. This led me to constructing my first numerical model, to determine the details of how the instrument worked.

After my husband received his Ph.D., we spent a year in Moscow, USSR, before moving to Boulder CO. Here I was pleased to find work at the Space Environment Laboratory (now Center). Here I have worked in studies of the Interplanetary medium, first with shocks, then numerical (time dependent magnetohydrodynamic [MHD]) modeling. First 1 dimensional, then 2D and 3D as computers got bigger and faster. We used data as input into these models and compared the output to spacecraft data, to find out how much of the solar wind behavior can be explained by MHD. I also developed algorithms-small models based on the results of the large models, for predicting the arrival of solar-initiated interplanetary disturbances at Earth. Now I am also working on the possibility of using solar wind high-energy-particles to help forecast the arrival of these disturbances.
The SEC operations area is full of screens with real time data about the Sun and the solar wind from NOAA and NASA spacecraft.

What do I do?

One of my present projects is to respond to solar events and make predictions using two of our models. The particular data we watch are radio signals called "Type II bursts." When one is reported, or a solar event occurs that we think may be geo-effective (may affect Earth), I get together, by phone or e-mail, with colleagues, often a forecaster, to determine the input values. Then I run our models to get a prediction. These are not "operationally ready" models, but are in testing.

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