Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation
imageAin't half hot: but where's it heading?Naeblys

When a space hurricane was unleashed from the sun on January 7 2014, space-weather centres around the world sent out warnings. The hurricane was heading directly for Earth and was predicted to produce a strong geomagnetic storm. But then an unexpected thing happened: the storm bypassed Earth and headed for Mars instead. It confirmed that our techniques for predicting such events are not as accurate as we would like. I am one of the co-authors of a new paper that provides an insight into why the predictions were wrong and what we can do about this in future.

Space storms are a regular part of our sun’s activity. These so-called coronal mass ejections are a by-product of dramatic events called solar flares. They happen in active regions of the sun where a great amount of energy is built up in the form of a tangled magnetic field. This acts like a rubber band that has been twisted too far, snapping as it releases its stored energy.

The geomagnetic storms that occur when these ejections hit Earth can have dramatic consequences. Beautiful auroras in the night sky might be sights to behold, but equally GPS and telecommunication systems that rely on satellites can be disrupted, while radio black-outs can make it necessary to re-route air travel. In the worst scenarios, there can be strong surges of electrical currents that cannot be supported by national electric grids. This can lead to major power outages, such as the one experienced by Montreal and the Quebec region in Canada in March 1989.

Our findings

The progress of the January 2014 solar flare in the sun’s atmosphere was monitored by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a NASA mission launched in 2010 dedicated to our hosting star. Our research team, which was lead by Dr Christian Möstl from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, analysed the regions surrounding the storm’s original location on the sun.

We found that the area surrounding it on one side was another intensely active region with a strong magnetic field, while the other side was occupied by a weak magnetic field called a “coronal hole”. The team concluded that the former strong field pushed the erupting storm away, channelling it into the weak field path and away from its original route.

The flare behind the storm

Once the storm was on its way out into space, it was then recorded by several space probes, including the Advanced Composition Explorer in Earth’s orbit and the Curiosity Rover on Mars. In particular, the Martian robot reported a decrease in the cosmic rays in its vicinity, the so-called Forbush effect. This phenomenon takes place when the magnetic field of the solar cloud deflects the energetic particles, originating from outer space, which constantly bombard a planet.

This data helped our team to build a model to reproduce the evolution of the solar cloud in space, and hence its arrival times, both at Earth and at the red planet. This should improve the models that scientists use for making real-time forecasts of space weather, such as those used by the UK MET Office space weather prediction centre, which opened in October 2014.

In short, we reached two conclusions. For accurate forecasts, we will have to monitor the surroundings of the point of origin of the solar activity in future, since these appear to strongly dictate how coronal mass ejections develop. This will ultimately tell us whether a coronal mass ejection will hit the Earth, at which angle and with what intensity.

Second, it is highly important that we continue to improve our models for describing how solar storms evolve once they leave the sun. This is what allows us to predict their arrival times at Earth, enabling national authorities to prepare for their consequences as accurately as possible. To do this, much more research is still required into areas such as the mechanisms underlying the ejection of solar storms, how they evolve in space and how they interact with a planet’s natural magnetic shields. That is a key challenge for my field in the coming months and years.

Miho Janvier does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/our-predictions-of-solar-storms-have-not-been-very-accurate-until-now-heres-why-42669

Sugar and your body, a recipe for dull and ageing skin


Humans are encroaching on Antarctica’s last wild places, threatening its fragile biodiversity


The Conversation


Prime Minister Scott Morrison Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, supposed to be on holidays. He's not. He's online. Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray. Certainly staying very close to every...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison Covid 19 update

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon, everyone. Today I’m joined by Professor Paul Murphy - sorry, Professor Paul Kelly. I’ve got Brendan Murphy still on the brain. You are not far from us, Brendan. B...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

FORDHAM: Thank you very much for talking to us. I know it's a difficult day for all of those Qantas workers. Look, they want to know in the short term, are you going to extend JobKeeper?   PRI...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

What Are Your Basic Rights as an Employee and a Job Candidate?

There is no denying that we are living in very difficult times where finding stable employment is not that easy. However, no matter how harsh the circumstances are, people should not withstand m...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

Double the interest in eCommerce spaces from businesses after COVID-19 lockdown

Recent lockdown restrictions have emphasised the necessity of an eCommerce function in future-proofing retail businesses. Sydney-based co-working space, Workit Spaces, has seen double the amoun...

Steve Fletcher, National WHSQ Manager at Drake International - avatar Steve Fletcher, National WHSQ Manager at Drake International

Tips for Setting Up an E-Commerce Website

If you are fed up with the 9-5 daily grind and would like to make a living selling products online, setting up an e-commerce website might just be the answer. Many Australians have already freed t...

News Company - avatar News Company

News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion