mass ejections (CMEs), huge plasma clouds of hot gas that are
emitted from the sun, travel at speeds of up to 1,000 kilometres
per second. When these clouds hit the earth, they cause major
disruption to radio communications systems, and in extreme cases
can cause total loss of satellites
With current military activities in the
Middle East, the obvious advantage of being able to predict a
potential impact from one of these clouds means that preparations
can be made for the temporary loss of such a key method of contact
between military bases and those on the front line.
At England's Birmingham University, the
Astrophysics team - a world leader in solar and heliospheric
physics has developed and built the Solar Mass Ejection Imager -
SMEI, a purpose designed instrument that provides early detection,
monitoring and images of these powerful masses of hot gas.
The team have successfully won a US
Air Force contract to build this specialist equipment for Coriolis,
a space mission launched in January 2003, to discover more about
these huge plasma clouds.