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Space Weather: Interfering With The Global Positioning System

Date:
June 11, 2008
Source:
American Geophysical Union
Summary:
You can't always trust your GPS gadget. As scientists have long known, perplexing electrical activity in the upper atmospheric zone called the ionosphere can tamper with signals from GPS satellites. Now, new research and monitoring systems are clarifying what happens to disruptive clouds of electrons and other electrically charged particles, known as ions, in the ionosphere. The work may lead to regional predictions of reduced GPS reliability and accuracy.

The Aurora Australis as seen from the Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-39. The payload bay and tail of Discovery can be seen on the left hand side of the picture. Auroras are caused when high-energy electrons pour down from the Earth's magnetosphere and collide with atoms.
Credit: Image courtesy of NASA (Crew of STS-39)

You can't always trust your GPS gadget. As scientists have long known, perplexing electrical activity in the upper atmospheric zone called the ionosphere can tamper with signals from GPS satellites.

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Now, new research and monitoring systems are clarifying what happens to disruptive clouds of electrons and other electrically charged particles, known as ions, in the ionosphere. The work may lead to regional predictions of reduced GPS reliability and accuracy.

One team of researchers has recently observed Earth's aurora, which is a prominent manifestation of ionospheric electrical activity, in the act of disrupting GPS equipment. Other scientists have successfully tested a way to forecast GPS disturbances for marine users, with likely extension to users on land.

Some research groups are turning the tables and employing GPS receivers as tools with which to conduct basic research on the electrical-current structures of the ionosphere.

The scientific reports on these and other recent developments are available in a special section of Space Weather: The International Journal of Research and Applications, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, or AGU.

Space Weather is an online journal devoted to studies of the electrical interactions between the Earth and various emissions from the Sun, including electrically charged particles (the solar wind), solar radio noise and solar X-rays. The journal, which has a quarterly print digest called Space Weather Quarterly, is cosponsored by the National Science Foundation and the International Space Environment Service.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Geophysical Union. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Smith et al. GPS scintillation in the high arctic associated with an auroral arc. Space Weather, 2008; 6 (3): S03D01 DOI: 10.1029/2007SW000349
  2. Skone et al. Potential for issuing ionospheric warnings to Canadian users of marine DGPS. Space Weather, 2008; 6 (4): S04D03 DOI: 10.1029/2007SW000336

Cite This Page:

American Geophysical Union. "Space Weather: Interfering With The Global Positioning System." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080611080132.htm>.
American Geophysical Union. (2008, June 11). Space Weather: Interfering With The Global Positioning System. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080611080132.htm
American Geophysical Union. "Space Weather: Interfering With The Global Positioning System." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080611080132.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

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