The link between social media and solar storms

Major storms constantly release clouds of charged particles into the sun. When such a cloud approaches the Earth, the charged particles are deflected toward the poles by the Earth’s magnetic field. When the oxygen and nitrogen atoms collide there, their energy is released in the form of light. These are the colored northern lights.

Usually we don’t feel bothered by this. But sometimes, the bombardment of electromagnetic particles can be so severe that they disrupt navigation and communication systems. Scientists can detect such disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field using so-called magnetometers scattered around the world.

The bombardment might be concentrated in one place, but it could just be the sum of many small explosions scattered across the Earth’s magnetic field. British scientists have found a way to better observe the latter form. They have developed software that collects data from hundreds of distributed measurement systems. They didn’t come up with a new algorithm as a basis for this, they used existing algorithms that suggest new friends to users on social media.

In the trade magazine Nature Communications The scientists write that the algorithm actually says: “If you find the data from the magnetometer interesting, maybe the data from these meters and those as well.” In this way, they create a single social network for all detection systems, by which the sum and impact of many small solar storms can be estimated more quickly..

Source: University of Warwick, UK

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