Auroras - Living with a Star
Premieres Tuesday February 11, 2003

Brigadier-General David Johnson,
Director of Air Force Weather

Even more critical systems, however, may be at risk from space weather. In the Pentagon, Brigadier-General David Johnson, Director of Air Force Weather, describes how national security in this post "9/11" world also requires an increased awareness of how space weather can affect Department of Defense resources. We see how fighter planes, cruise missiles and other vital assets depend on satellites for positioning, and how GPS satellites can be affected by variations in space weather.

What's to be done about space weather? The program concludes by showing there are many ways to protect ourselves against the natural variability of near-Earth geospace. At Peterson Air Force base in Colorado, we hear from young USAF researchers who are working hard to develop new systems which will allow commanders on the battlefield to know how and when high frequency radios, GPS receivers and other equipment may be subject to uncertainties ultimately generated by forces originating on the Sun.

Images courtesy, National Grid, UK

Shanti Majithia (right) and Arslan Erinmez

On location at the United Kingdom's National Grid, we see how new forecasting tools using NASA's ACE satellite and other instruments have allowed the UK's essential power supplies to be protected against a recurrence of the 1989 blackout. At NASA JSC, we see how the Office of Human Spaceflight also uses advance warnings from a satellite one million miles from Earth to alert astronauts to "incoming" space weather. Animations show how satellites can be turned away from dangerous showers of meteorites, or simply shut down until bursts of potentially dangerous radiation have passed.

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