Scientists pinpoint solar storms, exact impact time on Earth

The solar storms that interrupt terrestrial and satellite radio signals, interfering with cell phones and other technologies, have been precisely observed by scientists for the first time. They have also successfully predicted the exact impact times of observed solar storms on Earth, possibly laying the groundwork for avoiding future radio communications and power outages.

Using high-res photographs from two spacecraft in tandem with radio burst detecting antennae, scientists at Trinity College Dublin, University College London and the University of Hawaii gained the necessary insight into the fundamental physics of solar storms for predicting the impact times. The results were published in Nature Physics.

When a solar storm occurs, the explosions cause electrons to race through space so fast that they create their own radio waves, which accounts for many "randomly" dropped cell phone calls. The same phenomenon can also cause massive power outages, depending on the intensity, as well as the spectacular sight of the Northern Lights.

NASA's STEREO and Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft were the two Earth orbiters that delivered the images. They collected the images from multiple locations, which allowed the scientists to extrapolate 3D renderings for use in the study. They collated the data using antennae in a "radio-quiet" region of Ireland.

SOURCE: University of Hawaii