6 Concluding Remarks

In this review, I had to write at several places statements such as “not yet understood,” “waiting for explanation,” “our capabilities are embarrassingly poor,” etc. This tells us that the field of space weather is still in the state of fundamental research. We are still far away from handling things over to the operators who transform our scientific conclusions into tools for practical application. On the other hand, when comparing our present situation with the one in the 1970s, when the significance of CMEs for solar-terrestrial relations (the term “space weather” was not even coined then) became apparent, I see substantial progress. We can now understand the system to such a degree that we are able to at least identify the basic gaps. That knowledge should allow us to direct future research such that one day the gaps might be closed.

Let me briefly summarize what I consider the key problems:

  1. How can we predict flares and CMEs before they actually occur, in terms of event time, location on the Sun and strength? What are the appropriate potential pre-event signatures?
  2. How can we predict the fluxes of relativistic SEPs released in context with solar transients?
  3. How can we predict the spread of these SEP fluxes through the heliosphere in order to warn in time and protect spaceships on the way to Moon and Mars?
  4. How do ICMEs propagate through the ambient interplanetary medium? What are the ingredients needed for an effective real-time computer code that would allow to predict the arrival of an ICME well before it actually arrives?

Of course, each one of these issues can be broken up into many sub-issues, as was indicated at many places in the review.

In the next few years, space weather research will experience another major boost. On the one hand, there are several space missions on the way: SOHO (since 1995, to be continued for several more years), the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE, since 1997, to be continued for several more years), the WIND spacecraft (since 1994), STEREO A and B, (launched in 2006), Hinode (launched in 2006), the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO, launched in 2010), and maybe others in the distant future.Update NASA’s Living With a Star Program (LWS) and the International Living With a Star Program (ILWS) will certainly help to promote research in our field. On the other hand, one must note that any initiative for the Exploration of Moon and Mars depends largely on progress of understanding space weather in that future astronauts must not be exposed to dangerous radiation doses from solar flares.

There is still much fundamental research on the Sun as the driver of space weather waiting to be done.


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