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Astronomers ask public to help spot solar storms, by Hannah Devlin, The Times
Tuesday, February 23rd 2010, 5:25 AM EST
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
Astronomers ask public to help spot solar storms

Last weekend I visited the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, to see their new solar exhibition. It's timed to coincide with the launch of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (which went into orbit last week) and the start of an active period of solar activity after an unusally long period of calm.

As part of the exhibition the observatory today launched Solar Stormwatch, a web project where anyone can help spot and track solar storms in real time data. After about five minutes of training at the exhibition I was qualified as a 'stormwatcher' and am looking forward to getting my first assignments.

The project uses real data from NASA’s STEREO mission, a pair of satellites in orbit around the Sun which give scientists a constant eye on the dynamic solar surface. Each imager has two cameras helping STEREO stare across the 150 million kilometres from the Earth to the Sun.

Stormwatch volunteers will be looking for evidence of huge explosions from the surface of the sun, called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), in which billions of tons of material are hurled out into space. The storms can be harmful to astronauts in orbit and have the potential to knock out communication satellites, disrupt mobile phone networks and damage power lines. Solar Stormwatch will help to forecast the arrival time at Earth and help minimise disruption.

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