The European Space Agency (ESA) is preparing to launch a new mission that will serve as Earth’s first line of defense against hazardous solar storms from the Sun. The mission involves deploying a satellite in a specific location in space between the Earth and the Sun.
The mission, known as Lagrange, was conceptualized by the ESA in 2018 to study the nature of solar weather. According to the agency, the mission could serve as a dedicated warning system that can help protect Earth from an approaching solar storm.
As explained by the ESA, Earth protected against the harmful effects of cosmic radiation and solar emissions from the Sun by its magnetic field. However, if the solar emissions are powerful enough, they could disrupt Earth’s magnetic field and interfere with certain infrastructures with Earth such as power and communication systems.
Aside from facilities on Earth, those in space or low-Earth orbit are also vulnerable to getting affected by intense solar activity.
“Earth’s magnetic field protects life on Earth from the intense radiation and titanic amounts of energetic material our Sun blasts in every direction,” the ESA stated. “However, astronauts and satellites in space, future explorers traveling to the Moon and Mars, and infrastructure on Earth such as power grids and communication systems remain vulnerable to these violent outbursts.”
As a solution to this cosmic issue, the ESA developed Lagrange, a new satellite mission that will approach the Sun from certain positions known as Lagrangian points. According to the ESA, these are points in space where the orbital motions and gravitational forces of Earth, the Sun and the spacecraft stabilize, creating an ideal location from which to observe the massive star.
From these specific points in space, the Lagrange mission will monitor the Sun and the activities on its surface. If it detects a solar emission brewing, it will alert Earth, prompting agencies to carry out the necessary precautions in preparation for the upcoming solar event.
“ESA is planning to send a satellite to monitor the ‘side’ of our Sun, from a gravitationally stable position known as the fifth Lagrange point,” the ESA explained. “From here, the Lagrange satellite will detect potentially hazardous solar events before they come into view from Earth, giving us advance knowledge of their speed, direction and chance of impact.”
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