We know that the sun is only partly the cause of climate change (most of it, alas, is caused by us), but periodic solar flares (or coronal mass ejections--CMEs) can have profound "space weather" effects on power grids and the communication satellites that power our cell phones and (in some cases) cable TV. They can also be dangerous to astronauts.
CMEs are clouds of magnetic fields and plasma --a hot gas composed of charged particles. The fastest and most powerful of these events can explode from the sun at speeds of more than a million miles per hour and release more energy than the current worldwide stockpile of nuclear weapons.
Now an international team of space scientists is investigating the mysterious physical mechanisms underlying the origin of CMEs. Their findings, based on state-of-the-art computer simulations, show the intricate connection between motions in the sun's interior and these eruptions and could lead to better forecasting of hazardous space weather conditions.
Astronomer Noé Lugaz says, "Through this type of computer modeling we are able to understand how invisible bundles of magnetic field rise from under the surface of the sun into interplanetary space and propagate towards Earth with potentially damaging results. These fundamental phenomena cannot be observed even with the most advanced instruments on board NASA satellites but they can be revealed by numerical simulations."
Hey, MOTKE warned us and Whitley heeded the warning and did something about it! (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to Whitley reading the first chapter of "Superstorm").