A team of scientists and engineers this week embarked on an Antarctic expedition on the SA Agulhas II to install and commission a new high-frequency digital radar system at the South African Antarctic research base.
The South African National Space Agency (Sansa) said on Friday that the system formed part of the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network, or SuperDarn – an international network of over 30 radars used to monitor the dynamics of space weather.
“Studying the weather in space is an important area of research, as it helps us understand how to protect technology on earth and in space from the devastating effects of solar activity,” said Sansa space science MD Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell.
Sansa would be able to deliver “a vital service” to the nation by providing forecasts and warnings on space weather activity, as well as assisting in the protection of satellite technology, communication and navigation systems and electrical power grids.
“While Antarctica may be the coldest, driest and windiest place on earth, it is one of the best locations to conduct space weather research owing to the earth’s magnetic field lines converging at the pole and acting as a funnel for space plasma to travel into the earth’s atmosphere,” McKinnell said.
The team would spend six weeks installing the new radar system and perform routine maintenance on other equipment used to monitor the space environment.