Solar storms and how SUSE High Performance Computing can save us

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Yes, I guess that is a rather ominous sounding title for my first post as a SUSE employee.  But, let me explain – this is not only true, but fascinating (to me, anyway).  Solar activity intensifies on a cycle of 11 years (don’t ask me why) and at the moment we are in a slow period, with the last crescendo ending two years ago.  Many years ago, let’s say three solar cycles ago, I obtained a B.S. degree in astrophysics – so that might explain to you why I am so enamored with all things space.  In fact my kids might say that I’ve always been a bit “out there”.  But I digress, let’s get back to my story.

I never realized until recently how much high performance computing has an impact on our daily lives, but it really does.  And SUSE Linux is a big, integral part of the HPC solution that helps protect us from the dangers of solar storms and other space weather phenomena.  Intense solar activity, for example, can disrupt our lives in many ways.  A coronal mass ejection, or CME, is a solar explosion that propels electromagnetic waves into Earth’s atmosphere with the ability to blow out transformers in power grids, or cause havoc with crucial satellite electronics and communications.

Much more common and frequent are solar flares.  The explosive heat of a solar flare can’t make it all the way to Earth, but electromagnetic radiation from them certainly can.  Solar flares can temporarily change the upper atmosphere and disrupt signal transmissions from a GPS satellite to Earth causing it to be off by a football field.

This may not sound that bad, but consider that almost everyone relies on cell phones with GPS, and GPS controls not only your in-car system but also airplane navigation, missile guidance systems, and the extremely accurate clocks that govern financial transactions – intense solar activity can be a serious matter.

With advance information, solar observatory findings, and data from supercomputer simulations of the effects of solar activity, we can be prepared and take the right precautions (like give warnings to electric companies, airline pilots, and more).

By combining data from space-based observatories, such as NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), with high-performance computer modeling, simulation, and analysis back on Earth, scientists hope to increase their understanding of solar dynamics.

So while researchers around the world are studying the sun to better understand its impact on Earth, the resulting knowledge from HPC simulations driven by SUSE Linux helps all of us humans here on the third planet from the sun, 93 million miles away.

For more information on SUSE HPC, please visit https://www.suse.com/products/server/hpc.html .

Jeff Reser, SUSE, @JeffReserNC

 

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Comments

  • Frank Rego frego says:

    Nice post Jeff. Great example of an HPC use case. Thanks for the information!

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