Learn how to spot solar explosions and track them across space to Earth. Your work could make a new scientific discovery as well as give astronauts an early warning if dangerous radiation is headed their way. You’ll also find out how to pinpoint comets, particle strikes and optical effects, and how to make detailed storm measurements.
Even on a quiet day, the Sun’s a whirling ball of energy – intense magnetic fields churn and pummel its atmosphere. But sometimes, huge solar explosions hurl billions of tons of material across the solar system and out into space. Scientists call them coronal mass ejections, or CMEs for short. We call them solar storms – and scientists need your help to discover how they begin and evolve, as well as forecast their arrival time at Earth.
Solar storms on a collision course with Earth are harmful to astronauts in orbit and have the potential to knock out communication satellites, disrupt mobile phone networks and damage power lines. On the plus side, they also spark the beautiful atmospheric reactions better known as the northern and southern lights, or aurora.
The project uses near-real time data from space. Every hour NASA’s STEREO spacecraft, a pair of satellites in orbit around the Sun, send a compressed ‘beacon mode’ data packet back to Earth. This means you can help detect Earth-bound solar storms up to three days before they reach us. These detections get pinged to Twitter as a space weather forecast.