Source: Xinhua

04-16-2009 16:44

Special Report:   Tech Max

WASHINGTON, April 14 (Xinhua) -- Twin NASA spacecraft have provided scientists with their first view of the speed, trajectory and three-dimensional shape of powerful explosions from the sun known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs.

a solar storm, aurora from space,
a solar storm, aurora from space,

This new capability will dramatically enhance scientists' ability to predict if and how these solar tsunamis could affect Earth, NASA said Tuesday.

When directed toward our planet, these ejections can be breathtakingly beautiful and yet potentially cause damaging effects worldwide. The brightly colored phenomena known as auroras-- more commonly called Northern or Southern Lights -- are examples of Earth's upper atmosphere harmlessly being disturbed by a CME. However, ejections can produce a form of solar cosmic rays that can be hazardous to spacecraft, astronauts and technology on Earth.

Space weather produces disturbances in electromagnetic fields on Earth that can induce extreme currents in wires, disrupting power lines and causing wide-spread blackouts. These sun storms can interfere with communications between ground controllers and satellites and with airplane pilots flying near Earth's poles. Radio noise from the storm also can disrupt cell phone service. Space weather has been recognized as causing problems with new technology since the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century.

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