Purdue physicists’ observation sparks debate on radioactive decay rates

2012-08-29

A warning system with the potential to protect against the devastating and costly effects of a massive solar storm could be on the horizon.

That's according to research published in the journal Astroparticle Physics.

Solar flares can be accompanied by the release of high energy particles - a coronal mass ejection - towards Earth.

Ensuing huge geomagnetic storms could wreak havoc on electronic systems, satellites, power grids and communication networks.

Data from the study, led by Prof Ephraim Fischbach and Prof Jere Jenkins of Purdue University, suggest that the rate of breakdown of radioactive materials changes in advance of solar flares.

They hope they can use this to develop a system that could predict when a potentially devastating geomagnetic storm might take place. This would allow authorities to adopt protective measures, such as shutting down satellites, at times of most risk.

But it is unclear how long such a system would take to develop. Prof Jenkins told BBC News: "We're still developing algorithms to pinpoint what type of flare and magnitude it will be."

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Last Updated: May 4, 2016 4:18 PM