4 mins read 18 Oct 2021

BOM Space Weather Service Moves to Adelaide's Lot Fourteen

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has announced the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) will open and operate a new Space Weather Hub at Adelaide’s Lot Fourteen precinct in 2022. The facility will help keep an eye on space weather and will act as an early warning system.

Credit: ESA.

Funded by the Australian and SA Governments, the facility Hub will feature a Space Weather Service and a research team that will monitor conditions beyond the atmosphere, looking for potential hazards that are generated by our local star, that could affect power and communications infrastructures down here on the ground.

When a solar storm occurs, charged particles from the Sun travel across the void of space and interact with Earth’s magnetic field and upper atmosphere. The occurrence causes changes in electrical fields and currents.

Depending on the intensity, solar flares and coronal mass ejections can distort radio transmissions, affect GPS navigation and even knock out power grids. Satellites don’t hold up too well and, in severe cases, aircraft avionics can be interrupted. Either way, the results can be very dangerous and expensive to fix.

Described as a “superstorm”, 1859’s Carrington Event is by far the most intense solar activity recorded to date. It electrified telegraph lines all over the world and shocked operators in some instances. Auroras over America’s northern areas were so bright people could read books under them in the middle of the night. There were even auroras observed as far south as Texas.

Luckily, humankind relied less on technology in the nineteenth century.

Credit: SDO/NASA.

However, with modern times comes the exponential increase in integration between global technology and the interconnected society, which always requires the latest advancements in space weather prediction because governments, industries, commercial entities and the public need to be informed of changes as early as possible.

Consider the reliance on GPS services by passenger aircraft and supply chain services, or the real-time response requirements when managing and mitigating natural disasters that require informed decision making - all of these services are subject to risk due to space weather. 

The BoM uses a combination of satellite data collection, ground station observation and a network of sensors in Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica to keep updated with solar activity. Information gathered is used by scientific institutions and universities all over the world.

The growing Australian Space Sector is relying further on real-time data, for example in recent times, Southern Launch used BoM resources for their Hapith I rocket trials.

When the Space Weather Hub opens in 2022, four new specialists will be added to the current 14-person team. 

There are around 1,400 people working in the South Australian space industry at the moment and they’re employed across 90 space-related organisations.

At Lot Fourteen, the BoM Space Weather Hub will join the Australian Space Agency, the Space Discovery Centre, Inovor Industries, Myriota and the South Australian Space Industry Centre.


Matthew Healy

Matt has been a science enthusiast all his life but it began with Star Trek. He used to wonder how the Starship Enterprise could travel so many light-years in the span of a single episode. He did heavy research and arrived at an answer: the speed of the plot.

Curiosity for the final frontier and strange new worlds didn’t stop there though. Matt’s interests branched out into many areas of science, engineering and technology. He keeps detailed notes and even has newspaper clippings from when Pathfinder landed on Mars in 1997.

A big fan of Carl Sagan and with a Bachelor of Arts writing degree in hand, Matt wants to inspire others to reach for the stars one article at a time.

Twitter: @MatthewJHealy7