NASA may now predict killer solar storms ‘30 minutes’ before they hit Earth - Hindustan Times
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NASA may now predict killer solar storms ‘30 minutes’ before they hit Earth

By | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh
May 15, 2023 05:52 PM IST

Solar storms occur when the Sun emits huge bursts of energy in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

When we think of the word “storm”, our minds often conjure images of dark, cloudy skies and fierce winds sweeping across coastal regions. However, have you ever considered that storms can be attributed to the tremendous heat generated by the Sun? It may come as a surprise, but the Sun's powerful ejections can indeed trigger scorching heat storms on our planet.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation from the Sun.(Representative image)
Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation from the Sun.(Representative image)

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The US space agency NASA has been working on an advanced computer model that merges artificial intelligence (AI) technology with satellite data, enabling the prediction of solar storms with a lead time of “30 minutes” before they impact Earth.

Know about solar storms, their causes and how can NASA predict them using AI.

What is a solar storm? How does it occur?

Solar storms occur when the Sun emits huge bursts of energy in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These phenomena send a stream of electrical charges and magnetic fields toward the Earth at a speed of about three million miles per hour.

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When the solar material in the space hits Earth's magnetic environment “geomagnetic storms” are created. The impacts of these magnetic storms can range from mild to extreme, but in a world increasingly dependent on technology, their effects are growing ever more disruptive.

NASA earlier stated that the researchers have expressed a growing concern as we approach the imminent “solar maximum”, the peak of the Sun's 11-year activity cycle, projected to occur around 2025.

Previous instances of solar storms

According to NASA, the most intense storm on record was the Carrington Event in 1859, sparked fires at telegraph stations and prevented messages from being sent.

Another destructive solar storm in 1989 caused electrical blackouts across Quebec for 12 hours, plunging millions of Canadians into the dark and closing schools and businesses.

NASA says if the Carrington Event happened today, it would have even more severe impacts, such as widespread electrical disruptions, persistent blackouts, and interruptions to global communications.

How does this AI work for a prior warning?

The researchers employed an AI technique known as "deep learning," which enables computers to discern patterns by analyzing prior instances. This form of AI was utilized to establish correlations between solar wind measurements obtained from heliophysics missions such as ACE, Wind, IMP-8, and Geotail, and the observed geomagnetic disruptions at ground stations across the globe.

As a result of their research, the scientists successfully created a computer model named DAGGER (Deep Learning Geomagnetic Perturbation). This model demonstrates the capability to rapidly and precisely forecast global geomagnetic disturbances, providing a lead time of “30 minutes” before their occurrence.

The predictions generated by DAGGER can be produced in less than a second, with regular updates available every minute, ensuring up-to-date and accurate information.

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