F5VIH. KM3T. PY1NB. These strings of letters and numbers aren’t license plate numbers but call signs. They belong to a handful of Ham radio operators, just three of the more than 2 million amateur enthusiasts whose chatter fills the global airwaves day and night. Now, research suggests these communications may represent a vast trove of data that could help scientists study and monitor space weather.
Space weather encompasses the phenomena that occur in the ionosphere — the outermost layers of Earth’s atmosphere — arising from the sun’s activity and its interactions with the planet’s magnetic field. Disturbances, like the geomagnetic storms that light up aurorae, can disrupt communication systems and GPS networks, while strong events like solar flares can threaten spacecraft, satellites and even terrestrial power grids….
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