Minister Pandor to open the Space Weather Centre in Hermanus
7 Dec 2010
The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor will officially open the Space Weather Centre in Hermanus on Friday, 10 December 2010 at 11h00.
The centre was recently acquired by the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory (HMO).
The Hermanus Magnetic Observatory is an Earth-Space Science national research facility of the National Research Foundation (NRF).
It forms part of a worldwide network of observatories and/or data centres of the Earth’s geomagnetic field (INTERMAGNET), ionosphere (DIDBase, IPYDIS), magnetosphere (SuperDARN) and lightning monitoring (WWLLN).
The HMO is also the Space Weather Regional Warning Centre (RWC) for Africa under the International Space Environment Service (ISES).
The HMO conducts observations and simulates the variations of the earth and space environments using a wide network of state-of-the-art instruments that are spread around the southern African region and extending as far south as Antarctica. This ground-based data is complemented by data from various international satellites. The data so collected and widely distributed is used for space physics research, space weather prediction and the training of students in these areas.
Changes in the atmospheric and space environments can adversely affect both ground-based and space-based technologies and render them inaccurate, inoperable or unreliable. Space weather is the name given to the measurement, analysis, interpretation and modelling of changing environmental conditions in the earth-sun system that affect both ground-based and space-based technologies and life on earth. It is a key element to be considered in the design, deployment, operation, maintenance, compensation or correction of space-induced inaccuracies and the post-analysis of failure of space systems. As such, HMO students are equipped in scarce skills including signal processing, instrumentation and measurement, data analysis and simulations in addition to research skills and critical analysis and problem solving.
The HMO also offers technological services to the public and commercial clients in the defence and aerospace sectors. Services provided include innovative solutions and products in electric and magnetic signature management, magnetic navigation ground and system support, magnetic system characterisation and treatment, and cathodic rust protection.
The HMO also has a science advancement division that runs programmes that stimulate interest in science among learners, facilitate the in-service training of educators and engages and increases science awareness and interest amongst the public.
In order to fulfill its mandate as the Space Weather Regional Warning Centre for Africa, the HMO needed to organise its capabilities to provide forecasts, predictions and warnings, as well as educate academia, industry, policy makers and the general public on the need for Space Weather. In addition, structured research into unanswered questions regarding Space Weather events needed to be undertaken for the African region, and HMO is well positioned to lead this. With the launch and establishment of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) taking place in 2010, as well as the launch of the National Space Strategy it is imperative that South Africa has the capabilities within its science Infrastructure to provide a good understanding and knowledge of the hostile Space Environment. Therefore, Space Weather has taken a key role and position within the HMO’s vision 2015, and as part of the new HMO strategy initiated from 1 April 2010, a Space Weather Unit was formed within the HMO structures.
In addition during 2010, after a long process of planning, and consultation, the HMO reception area was renovated to incorporate a purpose built Space Weather Operations Centre. This centre has been designed to fulfill international requirements and provide a superior class facility for space weather forecasts, predictions and warnings, as well as a facility for the advancement of science to learners, policy makers and the general public.
The design incorporates a state of the art server room which not only allows for the capacity needed to monitor space weather 24 hours a day, and fuel the attractive displays, but also provided additional capacity to meet other HMO operational needs. The main centre leads into a space weather office and two additional secure server rooms that provide the security required by some users. For the first time ever, HMO has the possibility to continuously monitor the data that is arriving from the different field stations operated by HMO as well as to provide in real time information derived from that data.
The Space Weather Centre will also be providing alerts, forecasts and information via modern technology media such as the internet, and twitter, and via radio and the media and so, while the operations side is hosted and run in Hermanus, the benefits of this infrastructure can be enjoyed and utilised by the nation.
- HMO has been measuring the Earth’s magnetic field since 1932 (a period of 78 years), and has been located in Hermanus since 1940.
- HMO became a national facility of the NRF in June 2001 after a migration period of about 1 year from the CSIR.
- Over the 10 years in which HMO has been a national facility:
- The staff complement has grown from 9 to 40.
- The research spread has increased from Geomagnetism only to nearly all areas of Space Physics.
- The technology group has widened their scope from magnetometer development and sensor integration to magnetic signature and corrosion management.
- Science advancement has developed the only science centre in a 200 km radius and have increased capacity to about 5000 learners per year.
- The HMO has built up a student postgraduate program from nothing in 2003 to 24 postgraduate (MSc and PhD) students in 2010.
- HMO is one of 13 Space Weather Regional Warning Centres in the World.
- HMO has four permanent geomagnetic observatories all of which have INTERMAGNET status.
- The observatory located at HMO in Hermanus is one of five Observatories globally that contribute towards the calculation of the global Dst magnetic index, which is the most commonly used indicator of global magnetic activity and is access approximately 1,5 million times per year.
- Work began on the renovations to the reception area and the space weather centre in May 2010, and final completion was in November 2010.
Tel: 012 843 6802
Cell: 082 566 0446
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
7 Dec 2010
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