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October 13, 2022

Astronauts, Satellites, Airplanes and Solar Flares

Researchers have created a way to model the exact movements of solar energy particles, allowing them to track ion and electron acceleration from plasma formation to dangerous Earth-impacting solar radiation.

Credit: National Science Foundation

Astronauts, Satellites, Airplanes and Solar Flares

Weather in outer space is unpredictable, high-energy solar particles bombard earth and objects in our orbit with radiation that can endanger the lives of astronauts and destroy electronic equipment.

Is there a way to more accurately predict these dangerous particle bursts? We'll explore as we look into the U.S. National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files."

These cosmic rays are strong enough to reach passengers in airplanes flying over the north pole. Despite scientists' best efforts, a clear understanding of how and when these flare-ups will occur has remained elusive.

For decades, scientists have believed that the sun's plasma generates high-energy particles. But these particles move so erratically and unpredictably that until now they have not been able to be simulated.

NSF-supported researchers have created complex 3d computer models that show the exact movements of solar energy particles.

These fully kinetic simulations track ion and electron acceleration from their electric field inception, shedding new light on the origin of particles in space and astrophysical systems.

The findings allow a greater understanding of the origin of solar energy particles, pave the way for more accurate forecasting of dangerous cosmic weather events, and invite future simulations of other celestial bodies.

To hear more science and engineering news, including the researchers making it, subscribe to "NSF's Discovery Files" podcast, available wherever you get podcast.

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