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In Brief:

New model better predicts brewing space storms

June 21, 2000
Web posted at: 12:15 p.m. EDT (1615 GMT)

(CNN) -- Scientists have developed a new method to estimate the arrival of destructive type of solar storm to within half a day, a significant improvement over the previous best predictions of two to five days.

Called coronal mass ejections, these solar streams are filled with billions of tons of electrified matter that, if directed toward Earth, can impair electrical systems on and around Earth.

A team of Catholic University and NASA researchers has created a model that reliably predicts the time such clouds take to reach Earth, based on their initial speed from the sun and their interaction with the solar wind, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center announced this week.

The new model uses recent observations from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, an orbiter managed by NASA and the European Space Agency.

CMEs, which can distort Earth's magnetic field, often herald dramatic auroral displays and occasional electrical storms that disrupt satellite communications and power grids.

Coronal mass ejections leave the sun at various speeds, ranging from 12 to 1,250 miles (about 20 to 2,000 kilometers) per second. Estimating their arrival has proved difficult because their interaction with the solar wind changes their speed.

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