Weather: Weather Wise

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Indy Lifestyle Online
While meteorologists make gradual progress in providing more accurate forecasts of weather on earth, great advances are being made in predictions in space.

The good news is that scientists in San Francisco have developed a new way of predicting the weather. The bad news is that it's the weather in space, not on earth. But the good news is that it could be of use to more people than just astronauts and owners of satellites.

The new techniques allow the prediction of "space hurricanes" - huge storms of solar energy than travel at around 2,000 km per second and have huge potential for causing damage to spacecraft or disrupting sensitive instruments on earth.

The new methods come from observations by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (Soho) which was sent into orbit in 1995 and has helped scientists understand better the "Coronal Mass Ejections" which periodically explode from the sun. Readings show a build-up of magnetic fields on the sun before such an eruption, which means they can be predicted and potential damage minimised. "Spacecraft and power systems can be shut down so they won't be zapped," said Nancy Crooker, of the Center for Space Physics at Boston University - which is the most jargon-free explanation you will hear from a scientist all year.

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