New method can predict sunspots

Aug. 19, 2011 at 6:44 PM
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PALO ALTO, Calif., Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Researchers in California say they've developed a method to catch sunspots in the early stage of development and give as much as two days' warning.

Sunspots give rise to solar storms that disrupt communication systems, air travel, power grids and satellites, so a way to predict them would allow protective measures to be taken, a Stanford University release said Friday.

University researchers have developed a method that allows them to peer deep into the sun's interior using acoustic waves generated inside by the turbulent motion of plasma and gases in constant motion.

The method allows detection of sunspots in the early stages of formation as deep as 40,000 miles inside the sun, between one and two days before they would appear on the sun's surface.

Sunspots that ultimately become large rise up to the surface more quickly than ones that stay small, the researchers said, and for the larger sunspots -- ones that spawn the biggest disruptions -- warning time is roughly a day.

The smaller ones can be found up to two days before they reach the surface, they said.

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