Solar Stormwatch

The latest exhibit in the Zooniverse (which tweets here), which sprang from the Galaxy Zoo (which tweets here) citizen science project, has been launched.

Solar StormWatch (which tweets here) takes data from the twin STEREO spacecraft that watch the Sun. These spacecraft produce three dimensional images of the turbulence on the solar surface. I remember a few years ago Chris Davis mentioning his group had been sponsored to design instruments, build them and retrieve data from them (in this case the Heliospheric Imager), but no funding was available to analyse what came back. Instead, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory dumped the data onto a server and invited other scientists to do with it as they will.

Now the same solution has been reapplied with a little Galaxy Zoo magic to produce something ordinary people can be a part of. Users of the website are invited to examine data on explosions on the solar surface and track outbursts as they head toward Earth. This will allow scientists to be alerted to incoming disturbed conditions that may lead to damage to unshielded electronics, disruption to communication and auroral effects. There’s a bit of ‘spot training’ and then you’re off classifying solar disturbances.

As we’re at the start of a solar cycle, it is pretty quiet up there (see spaceweather.com for example), but getting noisier. As the project progresses and more people join, there will be more to see and more discoveries for other users to confirm.

Oh, and they also have a nice gallery on Flickr of auroral events.

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