Collin Arocho
29 September 2020

The Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (Astron), S&T (Science and Technology) and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) have finished the design phase of a new early-warning system for solar eruptions. Disturb, which stands for Disturbance Detection by Intelligent Solar Radio Telescope of (Un)perturbed Radiofrequency Bands, is a solar radio telescope that directly detects solar eruptions in real time and can quickly alert others for current and past solar radio interference. The next phase is to build a working prototype of this first-of-its-kind system that uses an entirely passive system to ‘listen’ to the sun.

Astron Disturb
Disturb is a solar radio telescope that directly detects solar eruptions in real time. Credit: Astron

Solar eruptions are a regular occurrence and are not typically problematic due to their small size. However, larger eruptions have a history of interfering with radars, GPS and other radio connections – especially problematic for air traffic. Therefore, the Disturb project is of particular interest to the Dutch Ministry of Defense, as it can alert them to the cause of the radio signal interference. “All our branches rely on antenna systems,” says Major Willem-Pieter van der Laan of the Ministry of Defense. “Think of radars for ballistic missile defense or air traffic control, antennas for radio and satellite communications, or GPS receivers for timing and navigation. Knowing these systems are disturbed by the sun and not by an adversary could be crucial.”