Scientists weather a space storm to find its origin
A team of researchers from the UK and France used SOHO, ACE and the four Cluster spacecraft to study a huge eruption on the Sun, tracing its progress from birth to when it reached Earth.
The team, led by scientists from University College London, identified the source of a ‘coronal mass ejection’ (CME) and analysed how its magnetic field changes on its path to Earth.
Triggered by a massive explosion on the Sun with millions of times more energy than a nuclear bomb, these CMEs are blasts of gas that could engulf Earth. CMEs are caused by the collision of loop-like magnetic field lines with different polarities on the Sun’s surface.
“There’s been much speculation about the shape of the magnetic field and how it might change on its journey from the Sun to Earth. Using complementary satellites we have been able to see that the magnetic field changes very little on its journey,” said Dr Louise Harra, of UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory.
Earth’s magnetic field, forming the magnetosphere, protects the planet from the full brunt of these blasts, but when the CME’s fields collide directly with it they can excite geomagnetic storms. In extreme cases they cause electrical power outages and damage to communications networks and satellites.
“If we are to successfully predict storms we need to be able to identify an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection as it leaves the Sun and work out how it evolves,” said Dr Harra.
The CME was detected on 20 January 2004 by the ESA/NASA SOHO spacecraft which was used to identify the source of the ejection.
Two days later, on its journey to Earth, the ejected magnetic field passed ESA’s four Cluster spacecraft. Their tetrahedral formation allowed the sampling of the speed and direction of the field. Similar measurements were made by NASA’s ACE spacecraft.
“SOHO and Cluster spacecraft are ideally suited to working together - SOHO sees the explosions from the Sun and Cluster feels them. Our next step is to predict the eruption of storms on the Sun,” said Dr Harra.
This direct measurement by SOHO, ACE and Cluster confirms previous Earth-bound predictions and takes researchers a step closer to forecasting these geomagnetic storms.
Bernhard Fleck | alfa
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...