These measurements have practical implications for Earth, too.
As we become more and more dependent on technology in our daily lives, civilization is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the sun's ‘temper tantrums.' Every 11 years or so, the sun winds up into a highly stressed state; a period known as "solar maximum." During these periods of intense solar activity (as the sun is now), we can expect an amplification in solar wind ferocity and an increase in frequency of solar flares and CMEs - all of which can interfere with communications and damage satellites, for example.
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CMEs are of special concern, as when the huge magnetized bubbles of highly charged particles interact with our planet's magnetic field they can generate huge currents through the atmosphere, threatening entire power grids. Therefore, accurate prediction and characterization of incoming CMEs is paramount.
"These waves are quite important because they're associated with CMEs that fire plasma out into the heliosphere, toward the Earth," added Long. "Generally we see them when there's a CME coming straight at us - but when it's coming straight at us then it's quite difficult to measure how fast it's coming at us or how strong it is.