•Artificial intelligence helped analyse patterns in the sun's magnetic lines
•It found that the energy stored in the magnetic field can forecast flares
•The next step would be to incorporate data from the sun's atmosphere
•Soon, Stanford researchers say the computer could help predict when flares will cause widespread power outages on Earth before they form
Artificial intelligence is helping astronomers predict deadly solar flares that have the potential to cause havoc on Earth.
US researchers say their super computer can provide advance warning of solar eruptions, which can release energy equivalent to 100 billion atomic bombs.
The flares arise from twisted magnetic fields that occur all over the sun's surface, and they increase in frequency every 11 years - a cycle that is now at its maximum.
On Earth, they can cause widespread power outages and severely damaging critical infrastructure.
Using artificial intelligence, Stanford University solar physicists Monica Bobra and Sebastien Couvidat have automated the study solar flares.
They looked at the largest ever set of solar observations at the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) to find patterns in something known as 'vector magnetic lines'.
These describe the strength and direction of magnetic fields on the solar surface.
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