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New system may better predict solar flares


This image shows a powerful solar flare released on Nov. 4, 2003. The Extreme ultraviolet Imager in the 195A emission line aboard the SOHO spacecraft captured the event.



Scientists have developed a new early warning detection method to notify people that a solar flare is approaching.

According to Business-Standard, the new detection technique is, "based on a hypothesis that radioactive decay rates are influenced by solar activity, possibly streams of subatomic particles called solar neutrinos."

Purdue physicist Ephraim Fischbach was the first to notice the radioactive decay, according to Popular Science. 

“We have repeatedly seen a precursor signal preceding a solar flare. We think this has predictive value," Fischbach said in a news release. 

A solar flare is a sudden, powerful burst of magnetic energy that has built up in the Sun's atmosphere. They are associated with sunspots, which are areas of intense magnetic energy that move over the surface of the Sun at a different temperature to the surrounding region, according to NASA. If strong enough, a solar flare may interfere with technology, including satellites, radio communications and electric power grids.

The last major solar flare event took place 150 years ago on September 1, 1859, and is known as the Carrington Event. The event was so strong that it caused telegraph wires to glow and the aurora borealis to appear as far south as Cuba, according to Popular Science. 

Fischbach noted to Popular Science that an early warning system would give astronauts on the International Space Station or en route to Mars take cover a full day before they would feel its effect. It could also, "notify people on Earth that they should shut down power plants and communications infrastructure to guard against another Carrington event."