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Experts convene at NYU Abu Dhabi to discuss the future of space

Conference participants discussed questions about the sun; the most important influence on the Earth’s weather and space environment

The Centre for Space Science at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) convened a meeting of senior members of the UAE space sector and international scientists recently on Future Directions in Heliophysics. Heliophysics is the science of how sun’s interior influences the atmosphere of the sun and its planets.

Speakers presented important scientific challenges in understanding the behaviour of the sun, which in turn limits the ability to predict its impact on our space environment. Discussions of potential space missions focused on CubeSats, which provide an affordable and powerful means of studying the full surface of the sun and characterizing its impact on us from space. The participants also discussed the advantages of a collaboration between Centre for Space Science and the UAE on building space programs. Director of Space Missions, Science and Technology Khaled al Hashemi and Head of Space Projects Abdulla Al Marar presented the UAE Space Agency’s vision for the future, including the status of the 2020 mission to Mars. Director of the Space Science Department Miriam Rashid Al Shamsi described the activities of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai.

Conference participants discussed questions about the sun; the most important influence on the Earth’s weather and space environment. Also present were guests from Khalifa University, American University of Sharjah, and UAE University.

The Centre for Space Science, headed by Principal Investigator Professor Katepalli Sreenivasan and co-Principal Investigators Professor Laurent Gizon and Professor Shravan Hanasoge, aims to set world-class research and outreach programs in the science of the sun, stars, and exoplanets. In addition to being a hub of intellectual activity within NYUAD, the Centre for Space Science intends to be a significant resource in supporting one of the UAE’s priority sectors in the science of space.

Research Professor Laurent Gizon said: “NYU Abu Dhabi’s collaborative research environment is aimed at fostering intellectual discourse across disciplines while addressing issues of local impact and global consequence. The study of the sun and its impact on planets is an exciting new field of research in the UAE, and understanding the physical causes of the magnetism of the sun will be key to forecasting space weather and ultimately enabling space travel to Mars.”

Michael McGrath, a participant from UAE University in Al Ain, said: “NYU Abu Dhabi convened a meeting of prominent international solar scientists to discuss key unanswered questions about the sun – one star amongst billions of stars in our universe, and arguably the most important influence on the Earth’s weather and environment – affecting all of life today. That we don’t understand some of the most fundamental behaviours of this star creates a majestic scientific challenge.”