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NASA launches Sydney University space project

NASA launches Sydney University space weather project

NASA’s STEREO mission successfully launched last week (Thursday 26 October) with experiments on board to investigate the physics of the sun and associated space weather.

The spectacular night launch was of particular interest to two Sydney University physicists. Dr Iver Cairns and Professor Peter Robinson watched from the VIP suite at the launch as members of the SWAVES (radio and plasma waves) instrument team, one of the experiments being launched as part of the STEREO project.

STEREO’s two spacecraft will enable researchers to reliably and continuously track space weather events from the Sun to the Earth and to better predict their arrival time.

‘It will also allow us to refine existing theories for the radio emissions, and many other interplanetary phenomena, and to conclusively identify the triggers for the radio events,’ said Dr Cairns.

Dr Cairns and Professor Robinson were invited by NASA to take part in the project because they are two of the world’s experts in the growth of plasma waves and radio emissions in space, with the only semi-quantitative theories for solar/ interplanetary radio emissions associated with coronal mass ejections and solar flares (type one and three bursts).

The project is expected to take at least two years and probably as long as, four but could be extended longer. The team is expecting to make major progress in the first year.

‘This is incredibly exciting opportunity to be part of an international team on a NASA mission, with strong European commitments and a dominantly Australian theoretical effort, with clear goals, a great team of colleagues, and a future with lots of blue sky potential,’ said Dr Cairns.

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