The Sun emits solar wind along with coronal mass ejections (CMEs) which are faster-moving material. NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) researchers aim at trapping the CMEs that move through space.
Here are the top things to know:
1. These CMEs and solar wind have the potential to interact with the magnetic field encompassing Earth while impacting the satellites, even obstruct the GPS signals and also trigger the astronomical phenomenon – auroras – and they can also strain power grids in extreme cases.
2. A number of instruments were used to track the CMEs from a distance. Data from NASA and ESA spacecraft assessed the CME to accumulate unprecedented data regarding the movement of the storms across space.
4. The researchers have aimed at assessing the changes in the pace and movement of the CMEs. Data about the movement of the CME from Sun past Pluto was collected with the help of 10 spacecraft which were directly in its path.
5. On October 14, 2014, a CME left the Sun and was measured by the spacecraft that watches CMEs from a distance with the help of an instrument called coronagraph. This CME passed by the spacecraft via the inner solar system, passing by the Curiosity rover on the Red Planet, near comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and up to Saturn. Voyager 2, STEREO-A, the Mars Curiosity Rover, and three other tools on Mars had captured this CME.
"If you have just one data point, you can simulate that easily, because you only have to validate that one point," said Leila Mays, a space scientist at Goddard and an author on the paper, a NASA statement revealed. But Mays points out that while the model may be tuned to match that one data point, it's unlikely to be accurate in the big picture. "Once you get more data, you can put together more pieces of the puzzle."
6. Our Sun is as active as it was in 2014, which makes the CMEs a common phenomenon. The researchers became interested in this CME as it interfered with the Martian atmosphere and Comet Siding Spring.
"We found at the time of the comet's passing, there was some solar wind disturbance around Mars," said Olivier Witasse, a space scientist with ESA and lead author on the paper. "Which was a bit of a shame because we wanted to see the effects of the comet on the atmosphere."
7. Witasse and the team of researchers used models from the Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC) according to a NASA Goddard to provide more background about the CME which had hampered with their measurements.
"The experimental forecasting at the CCMC made finding this CME possible," said Mays. "We were able to use our database of CMEs and throw them all into this simulation to see which were candidates for their observations."
8. After Witasse's team realised that comet 67P -- and therefore ESA's Rosetta spacecraft, then orbiting the comet -- was lined up to be right in the path of the CME, too, they began hunting for other observations, as quoted by a NASA statement.
"From there, it was an exciting chase to see where else the CME might have hit. Sometimes the impacted spacecraft's instruments weren't on, but we were able to gather other housekeeping data. Once a CME travels that far from the Sun, it gets squeezed between large, merged interaction regions in the solar wind, so it's not as easy to determine exactly what's going on," Mays said.