New Models Use Observations From 3 NASA Satellites To Recreate Solar Eruptions In 3D

Mysterious new purple aurora named 'Steve' by scientists
Data from SOHO and the twin STEREO satellites helped scientists recreate the 3D structures of CMEs and interplanetary shocks. The models can provide scientists with information crucial for space weather forecasting.  ( NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/GMU/APL/Joy Ng )

Using data from three NASA satellites, scientists created 3D models that simulate how shocks associated with coronal mass ejections or the CMEs propagate from the sun.

Space Weather Events

CMEs produce interplanetary shocks when they are released from the sun at high speeds and set off solar energetic particles, that can cause space weather events around the planet Earth.

Space weather events such as CMEs, solar flares, and solar energetic particles are natural occurrences that can cause catastrophic damage. The Carrington event, a powerful geomagnetic solar storm that occurred in 1859, for example, caused telegraph lines to explode at the time. They can also pose dangers to spacecraft and astronauts stationed in near-Earth.

A better understanding of the CME-associated shock's structure especially how it develops and speeds up can help predict its impact.

Satellite Observations Help Recreate 3D Views Of Solar Eruptions

In the new study, researchers used models based on satellite observations of CME to simulate the behavior of the shock.

Solar physicist Ryun-Young Kwon, from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and colleagues used data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory and the two nearly identical Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory or satellites, which observed the CME eruptions that occurred in March 2011 and February 2014 to unveil the three-dimensional structure of each CME and shock.

Individual observations from the spacecraft were not enough to model the shocks but using data from all three spacecrafts, each spaced evenly around the sun, the researchers were able to use their models to recreate 3D views of solar eruptions.

New Models Confirm Theoretical Predictions About CMEs and Shocks

The models and confirmed theoretical predictions about strong shocks near the CME nose and weaker shocks at the sides.

"The behavior is consistent with a driven shock at the nose and a freely propagating shock wave at the CME flanks. Interestingly, we find that the supercritical region extends over a large area of the shock and lasts longer (several tens of minutes) than past reports," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the Journal Space Weather and Space Climate on Feb. 13.

Crucial For Space Weather Forecasting

The new models also provide scientist with information that can help forecast space weather. This information includes the density of plasma around the shocks, as well as the strength and speeds of the high-energy particles from the sun, which can help assess the dangers that CMEs pose.

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