Solar Physics Conference Comes To MSU - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Solar Physics Conference Comes To MSU

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BOZEMAN - Over 200 scientists from the United States, India and China are gathering this week at Montana State University to study how the sun affects the earth.

The energy of the sun is affected by solar flares.

"You can stretch them, you can twist them," said David McKenzie, MSU Associate Research Professor. "They break and release as much energy in just a few minutes as all of the nuclear weapons ever built on earth. When we have a very active sun, it can affects the earth's magnetic field and all of our technological systems here on earth."

Our cell phones, cable and GPS systems are all threatened by solar activity.

"These solar eruptions really do cause damage," said McKenzie. "They divert air traffic, which costs billions of dollars a year. They can zap satellites, you can lose your cell phone reception or your satellite TV reception for hours."

"They cause currents in the earth's system and these currents can affect satellites," said Dr. Jeffrey Newmark, Solar Physics Discipline Scientist with NASA. "They can affect a power grid on the ground and induce a ground current and that can blow up transformers."

These flares are created by energy stored in the sun's magnetic field and change when the magnetic field breaks and releases the energy.

"These cause massive releases of radiation in x-rays and visible light or ultra violet light," said McKenzie.

The hope is to understand more of what causes these flares and how to predict them.

"If we understand can predict when they are going to happen, a day, two, a week, a month in advance wherever the capability is," said Newmark.

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