Telescope Developed To Warn Of GPS-Damaging Solar Storms

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In case you haven’t noticed, we’re a little ways into a technological revolution. Computer and satellite technology have boomed beyond our imagination and continue to push boundaries. GPS navigation devices are in our cars, guiding us around town, while our pocket-sized computers, called smartphones, tracked with the same technology. For the most part, our society embraces this technology, which has created a near-dependence on it. For this reason, it is necessary to know the vulnerabilities of these technologies. One of the major natural threats to our GPS devices are solar storms.


Solar storms involve large amounts of solar activity, which can cause solar flares to shoot out into the atmosphere. If these flares are strong enough, they can cause disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field, which can significantly damage electrical grids, communication satellites and GPS navigation systems. In order to prepare for this, a Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope was developed in Australia. The telescope was erected just in time, as a period of high solar activity is predicted to occur over the next year.


“The MWA will keep watch on the Sun during the upcoming period of maximum solar activity. It has the potential to deliver very real and immediate benefits to the entire global population. It is a tremendous achievement and testament to the innovative technologies that have been developed to support this instrument,” Steven Tingay said, the MWA’s director and professor of radio astronomy at Curtin University in Australia.


The MWA project took the cooperation of 13 institutions from the U.S., India, Austrialia and New Zealand. In addition to warning us of solar storms, scientists also hope to learn more about the history of the universe. “Understanding how the dramatic transformation took place soon after the Big Bang, over 13 billion years ago, is the final frontier for astrophysicists like me,” Professor Tingay explained. “Preliminary testing, using only a fraction of the MWA’s capability, has already achieved results that are on par with the best results ever achieved i the search for the first stars and galaxies.”

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Marisa O'Connor

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