Solar eruptions may not have slinky-like shapes as commonly believed, according to a study that may help protect satellites in space as well as the electrical grid on Earth in the future. Revisiting older data, researchers from the University of New Hampshire in the US found new information about the shape of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) -- large-scale eruptions of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun.
Solar eruptions may not be slinky shaped
CMEs are one of the main sources for creating beautiful and intense auroras, like the Northern and Southern Lights. However, they can also damage satellites, disrupt radio communications and wreak havoc on the electrical transmission system causing massive and long-lasting power outages. Right now, only single point measurements exist for CMEs making it hard for scientists to judge their shapes, researchers said. These measurements have been helpful to space forecasters, allowing them a 30 to 60 minute warning before impact, they said.
The goal is to lengthen that notice time to hours -- ideally 24 hours -- to make more informed decisions on whether to power down satellites or the grid. The researchers took a closer look at data from two NASA spacecraft, Wind and ACE, typically orbiting upstream of Earth. They analysed the data of 21 CMEs over a two-year period between 2000 and 2002 when Wind had separated from ACE. "