Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Magnetic Structure On Sun Is Responsible For Powerful Solar Storms

Date:
May 27, 2005
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
New research links a particular magnetic structure on the Sun with the genesis of powerful solar storms that can buffet Earth's atmosphere. The research may enable scientists to create more accurate computer models of the solar storms, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), and could eventually point the way to forecasting the storms days before they occur.

Magnetic structures on the Sun are linked to solar storms that can set off disturbances when they reach the upper atmosphere, affecting satellites, ground-based communications systems and power grids on Earth.
Credit: NASA

New research links a particular magnetic structure on the Sun with the genesis of powerful solar storms that can buffet Earth's atmosphere. The research may enable scientists to create more accurate computer models of the solar storms, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), and could eventually point the way to forecasting the storms days before they occur.

"This discovery represents a potential breakthrough in our ability to forecast space weather," says Rich Behnke, section head in the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s division of atmospheric sciences, which funded the research. "Until now, all we could do was predict the impact of these massive storms after they had erupted. Now we hope to have forecasts telling us that these eruptions soon will be occurring."

Sarah Gibson, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)'s High Altitude Observatory (HAO), will present her findings at the American Geophysical Union conference in New Orleans on Thursday, May 26.

CMEs are a focus of solar research because they suddenly and violently release billions of tons of matter and charged particles that escape from the Sun and speed through space. Those ejections that are pointed toward Earth can set off disturbances when they reach the upper atmosphere, affecting satellites, ground-based communications systems and power grids.

For her research, Gibson turned to a unique dataset: white-light images of the lower reaches of the Sun's enormous halo, called the corona. Taken by HAO's Mark-IV K-Coronameter on Mauna Loa in Hawaii, the images are sensitive to density alone, avoiding the ambiguity of most other solar images that depend on both temperature and density. The images revealed that lower-density regions in the corona that appear to be twisted magnetic field lines can form prior to a CME. The twisted areas, known as magnetic flux ropes, store massive amounts of energy."

"The structures indicate the presence of a magnetic system that has enough energy to fuel a CME," Gibson explains. "But that isn't, by itself, an indication that a CME is about to occur. For that, we need to look at additional characteristics."

Gibson and her coworkers used coronameter images to observe dark, lower-density areas, known as cavities, that can be formed by magnetic flux ropes. Gibson's next steps will be to analyze cavities that result in CMEs to determine whether they have identifiable characteristics that may help scientists forecast a CME. Her preliminary findings indicate that a cavity begins to bulge and rise higher in the corona just before erupting. Cavities may also darken and become more sharply defined prior to eruption.

The research may put to rest an important debate among solar physicists over whether magnetic flux ropes can form prior to an ejection or are present only when an ejection takes place. Gibson's findings suggest that, to understand the forces that create CMEs, solar scientists should use magnetic flux ropes as the starting point of computer models of these massive storms.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Magnetic Structure On Sun Is Responsible For Powerful Solar Storms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 May 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050527104242.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2005, May 27). Magnetic Structure On Sun Is Responsible For Powerful Solar Storms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050527104242.htm
National Science Foundation. "Magnetic Structure On Sun Is Responsible For Powerful Solar Storms." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050527104242.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

NASA (July 18, 2014) Apollo 11 yesterday, Next Giant Leap tomorrow, Science instruments for Europa mission, and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins