I am painfully aware that there has been a lot of activity on Stormwatch and not very much feedback from us scientists. Fear not, we haven’t been sitting back with our feet on the desk waiting for you to finish analysing everything. A more accurate description would be that we have been frantically trying to keep up with you all!
So, I thought I ought to look up from my computer code and let you know something about what we have been doing with all your hard work.
Firstly, I wanted to say something about the real-time anaysis you have been doing with Incoming! and Incoming – Trace it. We have been looking at your results and this is proving to be a great way of accurately determining the speed and direction of solar storms. We are working towards automating this system so that, if enough of you agree on a particular event, we can start issuing our very own Solar Stormwatch space-weather forecast!
Over the summer I also worked with a student named Amy to look at the distribution of dust impacts on the spacecraft. We plotted out the distribution of dust around the spacecraft orbit and then compared this with the locations of known dust streams (that cause meteor showers on Earth when our planet passes through them). We found that many of the impacts corresponded to times when the spacecraft were moving through the same streams but other impacts showed no relationship with any known clouds. We are still pondering what this means. I suspect it tells us something about the size of the dust particles and the density of the clouds since you need fairly large particles to generate a meteor in the Earth’s atmosphere so a cloud consisting of smaller particles may not generate a meteor shower. Similarly, the STEREO spacecraft are very small compared with the Earth and so if a cloud contained very few particles that were spaced more than a few metres apart, a spacecraft could move between them and not see anything while the Earth would sweep them all up.
The spacecraft will have, by now, moved through the centre of the mysterious Trojan Points, where gravity is weaker and it is thought that the distribution of dust could be different. The STEREO spacecraft are the first to travel through this mysterious region so please continue to mark particle strikes in the What’s that? game so that we can be the first to find out if there is anything unusual about this region of space.
Thanks again for all your time and enthusiasm,