This image of a solar storm was taken by SOHO.
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National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

SOHO Watches Waves
News story originally written on March 13, 2000

The SOHO spacecraft has made a great discovery! Scientists found a way to forcast space weather weeks in advance. Until now, we had no way to tell when a solar disturbance was heading towards Earth.

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) can monitor waves that travel through the Sun from the far side. The far side is the half of the Sun not facing the Earth. These waves can travel through the Sun because the star is a very hot ball of gas, a great medium for sound waves to travel through. It takes 27 days for the Sun to complete one rotation, giving us plenty of notice before the solar storm faces Earth.

This gives a week to two weeks warning," said Douglas Braun, a solar physicist and co-author of a study appearing Friday in the journal Science. "Such a prediction could be important because it would give time to warn the crew of a manned mission to Mars, or astronauts working outside the International Space Station."

Scientists say that right now SOHO could not be used as a daily forcasting satellite. Either the way data is being retrieved will have to be modified, or another satellite will be sent into space to be a forcasting satellite.

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