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Winter 2016

Inquiry Magazine Archive

  • Spring 2016

    Spring 2016: Premium Blend

    Found in everything from space shuttles to dental fillings, composite materials have thoroughly infiltrated modern society. But their potential is still greatly untapped, offering researchers ample opportunity for discovery.

  • Fall 2015

    Fall 2015: Collision Course

    Within the particle showers created at the Large Hadron Collider, answers to some of the universe’s mysteries are waiting.

  • Spring 2015

    Spring 2015: Almost Human

    Model systems like pigeons can help illuminate our own evolutionary and genomic history.

  • Fall 2014

    Fall 2014: Small Wonder

    UT Arlington's tiny windmills are bringing renewable energy to a whole new scale.

  • Winter 2014

    Winter 2014: Overdue for an Overhaul

    The stability of our highways, pipelines, and even manholes is reaching a breaking point.

  • 2012

    2012: Mystery solved?

    Scientists believe they have discovered a subatomic particle that is crucial to understanding the universe.

  • 2011

    2011: Boosting brain power

    UT Arlington researchers unlock clues to the human body’s most mysterious and complex organ.

  • 2010

    2010: Powered by genetics

    UT Arlington researchers probe the hidden world of microbes in search of renewable energy sources.

  • 2009

    2009: Winning the battle against pain

    Wounded soldiers are benefiting from Robert Gatchel’s program that combines physical rehabilitation with treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • 2009

    2007: Sensing a solution

    Tiny sensors implanted in the body show promise in combating acid reflux disease, pain and other health problems.

  • 2006

    2006:Semiconductors: The next generation

    Nanotechnology researchers pursue hybrid silicon chips with life-saving potential.

  • 2005

    2005: Imaging is everything

    Biomedical engineers combat diseases with procedures that are painless to patients.

Heat Wave

Forecast: Solar Flare

UTA receives $4.5 million grant to develop a simulator that can predict space weather with unprecedented accuracy 

Solar Flare Illustration

Space weather like solar flares can disrupt the communication systems we use on Earth

Whether we're monitoring the weather, tracking satellites, or relaying military messages via high-frequency radio waves, we rely on models that estimate the energy entering Earth's atmosphere every day. But when space weather events like solar flares occur, they can throw those estimates off by as much as 100 percent and cause the models to yield errors of up to 30 percent—greatly affecting GPS and communication systems.

Physicists at UTA are leading a $4.5 million, national project to develop a space weather simulator capable of predicting solar flares and other energy distributions to an accuracy of one degree longitude and one degree latitude—roughly 100 kilometers in each direction. Joining the project are UCLA, Johns Hopkins University, MIT, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of New Mexico, and UT Dallas.

"This is a golden opportunity to help improve our ability to predict space weather effects with much higher accuracy and detail," says Yue Deng, an associate professor of physics and the project's leader. "We are bringing together physicists from seven leading research universities to create a global simulation model that combines our joint knowledge and experience to solve this important problem."

The five-year initiative comprises multiple phases of data analysis and assimilation as well as development and validation of the model itself. In the first phase, researchers will gather measurements of electric and magnetic fields taken from low-flying spacecraft and ground-based remote sensing tools. This info will be processed from both quiet and storm periods to define the intensity and distribution of energy in the upper atmosphere.

Next, the researchers will compare the data with readings from Dr. Deng's Global Ionosphere-Thermosphere Model (GITM), which simulates energy redistributions in the upper atmosphere through advanced computing. The team hopes to create a more accurate simulator by combining Deng's GITM with UCLA's Rice Convection Model, as well as by applying numerical modeling and data-processing techniques from UTA professors in mathematics and physics.

"To boost space weather modeling we have to go to a smaller scale, spatially and temporally, which will require new physics as well as combining our current knowledge and models," says Deng. "We will also have to take into account many new phenomena and processes to make this new global simulator effective."

More articles from this issue

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