Swedish researchers to unravel secrets of solar storms

A space physics group and Uppsala University tap IBM's stream-computing technology to sort massive amounts of data from outer-space radio waves.

Tom Espiner Special to CNET News
2 min read

Solar storms that can threaten satellites, power lines, and communications are to be monitored in a large-scale study at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and Uppsala University starting Thursday.

The organizations will use stream-computing technology to analyze data from sensors that track high-frequency radio waves, the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) said in a statement.

"Over the next year, this project is expected to perform analytics on at least 6GB per second or 21,600GB per hour--the equivalent of all the web pages on the Internet," said the IRF statement.

The organizations will use IBM InfoSphere Streams software to analyze the data. IBM said in a statement that the data will be collected using antennae designed to monitor radio waves in three dimensions to sample high-frequency emissions from space.

The Swedish scientists wish to study plasma eruptions on the sun, as those eruptions can trigger high-energy storms that disrupt electronics and electrical systems in orbit and on Earth. One of the key aspects of the study is the amount of data being collected using the recently developed antennae, which will be filtered and analyzed.

"We've embarked upon an entirely new way of observing radio signals using digital sensors that produce enormous amounts of data," Bo Thidé, professor and head of research, Swedish Institute of Space Physics, said in the IBM statement. "With this type of research, you have to be able to analyze as much data as possible on the fly."

IBM InfoSphere Streams software allows multiple sources of streaming data to be filtered, classified, transformed, and correlated, according to an IBM white paper. High-volume structured and unstructured data can be fed through input connectors to heterogeneous, multiscale or commodity hardware. Operations performed on that streaming data are determined by high-level system components that enforce user requirements onto running applications, said the white paper.

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.