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Space Weather and the Path to Mars

I think it’s very important instead to proceed to a human mission to the Moon. That is a lot more feasible. That will be very useful to solve the problems to be encountered in a longer term mission towards Mars.

Susanna Guatelli

Our space assets and our electricity grid are increasingly important for our modern life. Try to imagine life without them, so really, space weather is really important to understand.

Iver Cairns


Bad weather in space means much more than just a bit of wind. Astronauts go up against solar flares, gamma rays and high energy nuclear particles in their mission to explore the red planet. But if we don’t figure out how to protect ourselves against these extreme dangers, Mars will remain a no-go zone forever. 

In this talk, Sarah Brough, Iver Cairns, and Susanna Guatelli discuss the finer aspects of space weather and radiation protection.

Presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and the Australian Institute of Physics, and supported by Inspiring Australia as a part of National Science Week

UNSW Centre for Ideas, Australian Institute of Physics, Inspiring Australia and NSW Government logos

Image of Iver Cains

Iver Cairns

Professor Iver Cairns received his PhD from the University of Sydney, then worked at the University of Iowa in the US before returning to the University of Sydney to take up a prestigious five-year Senior Research Fellowship. In 2004, he was awarded the competitive Australian Professorial Fellowship and, in 2009, was appointed Professor in Space Physics. Cairns has published over 240 refereed papers in press, books or journals. He has a Hirsch index of over 28, presented 75 invited papers at international conferences and obtained over US$7M in competitive funding from Australian and U.S. funding agencies (excluding spacecraft projects). He has led international and national scientific societies including the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society, the International Association for Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, and the Solar Terrestrial and Space Physics Group at the Australian Institute of Physics. Professor Cairns is Australia's national representative to both the International Science Council Committee on Space Research and the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy. Nationally, he is a clear leader in Australia's space science community contributing to major publications and reviews that have led to Australia's Government making space science a major priority and focus.

Susanna Guatelli

Susanna Guatelli

Associate Professor Susanna Guatelli is an international expert of Monte Carlo Radiation Transport Simulation Codes for radiation physics, including medical applications and radiation protection in Earth labs, aviation and space. After obtaining a Masters in Physics at the University of Genova in Italy, her PhD focused on radiation protection of astronauts in missions to Mars within the Aurora Project of the European Space Agency. Based at CERN in Switzerland, she contributed to projects spanning radiation monitoring for the Large Hadron Collider to the effect of radiation at DNA level in astronauts. Since then, she has been involved in Geant4 for medical physics applications and continues to work on Monte Carlo Simulations in the Centre for Medical Radiation Physics at the University of Wollongong (UOW). Guatelli is a member of the Steering Board of the Geant4 International Collaboration, Coordinator of the Geant4 Advanced Examples Group and Coordinator of the Geant4 Medical Physics Benchmarking Group. As Academic Director of the Bachelor in Medical and Radiation Physics at UOW, she is passionate about science communication and inspiring young people to study physics. She has chaired/co-chaired international workshops and conference sessions and is the Associate Editor of two respected journals.

Image of Sarah Brough

Sarah Brough (Chairperson)

Professor Sarah Brough, from the School of Physics at UNSW Sydney, is leading Australia into a new astronomical survey of the southern sky. She has been a key member of three major Australian-led surveys of galaxies and has published over 200 research papers examining how galaxies have changed with time. Professor Brough is particularly interested in the most massive galaxies in the Universe, which represent the most extreme result of galaxy formation. The new Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) will open up novel avenues of investigation across all astronomical research areas, including very faint signatures of galaxy formation. Professor Brough leads an LSST working group on this subject. Professor Brough joined UNSW Sydney's School of Physics in January 2017 and was Research Director 2018 – 2020. She represents Australia as the Science Lead for LSST and was the Australian representative on the Science Advisory Committee of the Giant Magellan Telescope, a next-generation telescope under construction in Chile. As the former chair of the Astronomical Society of Australia's Inclusion Diversity and Equity in Astronomy Chapter, she is a keen advocate for diversity in science and was Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in UNSW's Faculty of Science in 2020. 

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