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Solar mysteries


Chris Davis: The STEREO Mission itself has several big questions that it’s trying to answer. We know that the Sun kicks out these vast solar storms. Each one of these storms is a billion tons of material traveling at a million miles an hour, so they’re not inconsequential.

But nobody quite knows why they happen, what causes them to be triggered. For the first time with STEREO, we are actually being able to track these storms continuously all the way from the Sun right out to the Earth from a position which is not near the Earth. So we are actually able to stand back and look at the storm coming from a distance.

We want to really start building a space weather forecast from this. Just studying one event doesn't tell you very much about the Sun's behavior in general. What we want to know about is, okay, we understand maybe in detail one event, but what does it do for the next 200 times? Is it the same? Does it change? Does it get progressively more active as the sun gets active? Do they get progressively weaker? Do they get faster? Do they get slower? Do they go off in a particular direction?

All these questions need you to have lots of numbers, and we need as many numbers as we possibly can.

Solar Stormwatch is brought to you by

  • Royal Observatory Greenwich
  • Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
  • Zooniverse