RoboSWOP in a space game EUFHORIA looking for sunspot treasures

What does this title means? Let us explain.

Different forms of energy move through space and plunge into the earth and its environment. This stream of energy can come from outer space, but it is mainly our Sun that drives it. Sudden and violent changes in this state of energy are referred as space weather. Often these storms originate in sunspots and clouds of suns material exploding in a violent way.
Because of its possible impact on earth, we are interested in keeping an eye on those sunspots and space weather clouds.

The sunspots, literally dark spots on the sun, have been counted and immortalised in paper drawings at the STCE for a long time. The drawings are acquired since March 1940 and the sunspot counts at kept in a digital database since 1981 resulting in a valuable heritage collections - truly treasures - but at the moment still hidden. And this is what we want to change: after the treasury has been smudged up, we will open up and share it with the science community and even broader. 


Two sunspot drawings made at the Royal Observatory of Belgium. This unexplored heritage collection spans more than 70 years of observations, with 23021 hand made drawings showing 87193 groups of sunspots.

We also keep track of solar clouds and try to forecast when a cloud will impact earth and how strong the impact will be. The forecaster identifies the cloud as complete as possible by checking other solar events and all sort of solar observations and solar images. The ‘Robotic Space Weather Operator’ or RoboSWOP will automate this part of the forecaster job. Automated software is not new, but what is innovating here is that we will make RoboSWOP think as a forecaster by mapping a forecasters mind and implementing it. And on top of this, RoboSWOP will be able to produce a 3D picture of these giant eruptions of energetic plasma. Sounds great, isn’t it!


3views from a plasma cloud travelling through space. The small yellow ball is a real picture of the sun, similar as the grey area a real picture is of the surroundings of the sun.

We go even further in this forecasting process. We want to simulate the passage of the plasma cloud through space while it is heading towards earth. Just like in a video game, we create a space world EUFHORIA that resembles real space filled with invisible forces and where the cloud interact with its almost vacuum surroundings. A thoroughgoing understanding of space physics, damn good programmers and huge computers are the ingredients for this innovative forecasting tool. Real space weather forecast centres, like ours for example, will certainly benefit from it.

Recently, the STCE was informed that belspo BRAIN-be funding to make this all happen is on its way. A happy start for these three challenges!

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