#2020Shortlist

Jennifer Carter

UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER

#PhysicalSciences   –  🏆 Winner 2020 #FWISAward

“SMILE! Taking a picture of space weather”

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Dr Carter works to understand the effects of ‘space weather’ on the Earth’s atmosphere.

Solar winds (a stream of charged particles released from the Sun) interfere with our planet’s outer atmosphere and magnetic fields, and the products of these interactions hold the potential to cause mass disruption to technology on a global scale. With her research proposal, Dr Carter intends to track the ‘substorms’ that arise from these interactions by working to optimise a joint spacecraft mission (between the European Space Agency and the Chinese Academy of Sciences). Collaborators intend to launch a satellite – SMILE (Solar wind Magnetosphere Ionosphere Link Explorer) – in 2023, with the inclusion of a Soft X-Ray imager due to Dr Carter’s previous research.

The records from this satellite, however, will not provide a broad enough data set to understand fully the substorm cycle that results from these space weather disruptions. As Dr Carter further explains, “SMILE must combine its findings with the context provided by other experiments, both ground and space-based”. She, therefore, intends to design and develop a data fusion facility to understand multiple datasets. Although an ambitious project, Dr Carter has a plan to combine varying formats of data, which will enable the global astrophysics community to extrapolate information from both the spacecraft and ground-based technology in order to gain a deeper understanding of the potential risks to our future.

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“Some things are only capable of being done in space, [such as] looking at our Earth from that far away and understanding the entire processes of storms and weather patterns, and oceans, and coastlines.”

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Laurel Clark, NASA Astronaut and Scientist

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