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www.ieap.uni-kiel.de/et/ag-wimmer/ | 22. 02. 2019

AG Wimmer-Schweingruber

Fahne Deutschland

Space Research in Kiel

The Importance of Extraterrestrial Physics for other Fields

In recent years, our society’s increasing dependency on extraterrestrial influences has become ever clearer. While the effects of the sun on the earth’s climate and weather is obvious, the importance of the heliophere as a shield for the interstellar and galactic medium has only recently become known. The complete chain of effects that the sun has on earth’s climate is not known at present. Although the fluctuations of the sun’s luminosity are measureable directly, other processes appear more difficult to quantify. The variation of the galactic cosmic radiation and possible accompanying changes in cloud formation is a heavily debated topic today with far reaching consequences..

Abbildung 1: Darstellung der Heliosphäre
Image 1: Model of the heliosphere [original size]

The sun heavily influences its surroundings, the heliosphere, up to a distance of distance of 100 astronomical units (1 AU = the distance from the sun to the earth, 150 million km) on a time scale of about 22 years. The structure of the heliosphere, which changes with solar activity, modulates the galactic cosmic radiation and in this way has a possible influence on the earth’s climate. The important thing here is an understanding of the modulation processes, and respectively, the changes in the structure of the heliosphere

The radiation exposure in manned aerospace travel is primarily determined by space weather. For radiation protection, it is important to determine the connections between cosmic radiation and the measurements on the international space station and commercial airplanes. The use of satellites in low orbits is also dependent on space weather. On one hand, the particle flows endanger the function of the instruments. This can lead to expensive losses. On the other hand, a more active sun can cause the upper atmosphere to expand and lead to the deceleration of satellites until they fall out of orbit to the earth.

The acceleration of particles to high energies is a wide spread phenomenon in astrophysics and can only be directly observed in the sun’s atmosphere (the corona) and the heliosphere. In the heliosphere it can even be measured in situ. Therefore, the heliosphere is a laboratory for processes in astrophysics. In nuclear fusion, the diffusion of particles diagonally to the magnetic field presents a big problem because it leads to losses in the magnetic entrapment of the plasma. In the heliosphere, the influence of diagonal diffusion appears to make up a large part of the plasma dynamic, whereby the heliosphere is developing into an interesting laboratory for plasma physics.

A further aspect that is not to be neglected is the close cooperation with industry. Here know-how is newly created and exchanged. The hard physical demands on mass, power input, susceptibility to interference, stability, etc., as well as the complex demands of project management constantly bring about the development of new solutions that also influence other areas of daily life (for example, automobile electronics have to function in Finland in winter as well as in the Sahara in summer). The productive cooperation with industry has not been able to continue in the last few years due to the shortage of financial support.

Extraterrestrial physics, like every other „space physics”, has a great effect on the public and therefore has an essential influence on the motivation of young people that take up a study of science at school or university. The increasing complexity of our highly interconnected society requires well educated young people that can recognize society’s problems and solve them. Extraterrestrial physics provides an important contribution through public work on one hand and through education on the other.