Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Find Elusive Waves In Sun's Corona

Date:
August 31, 2007
Source:
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Summary:
Scientists for the first time have observed elusive oscillations in the sun's corona, known as Alfvén waves. The discovery is expected to give researchers more insight into the fundamental behavior of solar magnetic fields, eventually leading to a fuller understanding of how the sun affects Earth and the solar system.

Scientists for the first time have observed elusive oscillations in the Sun's corona, known as Alfvén waves, by tracking the motions of coronal plasma (charged particles and gas) around the entire edge of the Sun. In this series of images and animations, NCAR's Coronal Multi-channel Polarimeter instrument, or CoMP, has captured the intensity of the light emitted from the solar corona (upper left), the line width or spectral extent over which the light is emitted (upper right), and the velocity (lower left). The oscillations of the plasma velocity are made clearer by filtering the velocity data to show only oscillations that recur periodically every five minutes. (lower right and still image, below). These motions are caused by the Alfvén waves.
Credit: Image courtesy Steve Tomczyk and Scott McIntosh, NCAR

Scientists for the first time have observed elusive oscillations in the Sun's corona, known as Alfvén waves, that transport energy outward from the surface of the Sun. The discovery is expected to give researchers more insight into the fundamental behavior of solar magnetic fields, eventually leading to a fuller understanding of how the Sun affects Earth and the solar system.

The research, led by Steve Tomczyk of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), is being published this week in Science.

"Alfvén waves can provide us with a window into processes that are fundamental to the workings of the Sun and its impacts on Earth," says Tomczyk, a scientist with NCAR's High Altitude Observatory.

Alfvén waves are fast-moving perturbations that emanate outward from the Sun along magnetic field lines, transporting energy. Although they have been detected in the heliosphere outside the Sun, they have never before been viewed within the corona, which is the outer layer of the Sun's atmosphere. Alfvén waves are difficult to detect partly because, unlike other waves, they do not lead to large-intensity fluctuations in the corona. In addition, their velocity shifts are small and not easily spotted.

"Our observations allowed us to unambiguously identify these oscillations as Alfvén waves," says coauthor Scott McIntosh of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder. "The waves are visible all the time and they occur all over the corona, which was initially surprising to us."

Insights into the Sun

By tracking the speed and direction of the waves, researchers will be able to infer basic properties of the solar atmosphere, such as the density and direction of magnetic fields. The waves may provide answers to questions that have puzzled physicists for generations, such as why the Sun's corona is hundreds of times hotter than its surface.

The research also can help scientists better predict solar storms that spew thousands of tons of magnetized matter into space, sometimes causing geomagnetic storms on Earth that disrupt sensitive telecommunications and power systems. By learning more about solar disruptions, scientists may be able to better protect astronauts from potentially dangerous levels of radiation in space.

"If we want to go to the moon and Mars, people need to know what's going to happen on the Sun," Tomczyk says.

A powerful instrument

To observe the waves, Tomczyk and his coauthors turned to an instrument developed at NCAR over the last few years. The coronal multichannel polarimeter, or CoMP, uses a telescope at the National Solar Observatory in Sacramento Peak, New Mexico, to gather and analyze light from the corona, which is much dimmer than the Sun itself. It tracks magnetic activity around the entire edge of the Sun and collects data with unusual speed, making a measurement as frequently as every 15 seconds.

The instrument enabled the research team to simultaneously capture intensity, velocity, and polarization images of the solar corona. Those images revealed propagating oscillations that moved in trajectories aligned with magnetic fields, and traveled as fast as nearly 2,500 miles per second.

In addition to Tomczyk and McIntosh, the research team included scientists from the National Solar Observatory, University of Notre Dame, Framingham High School in Massachusetts, University of Michigan, and NCAR.

Article:  S. Tomczyk, S.W. McIntosh, S.L. Keil, P.G. Judge, T. Schad, D.H. Seeley, J. Edmondson, "Alfvén Waves in the Solar Corona", Science, August 31, 2007


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

National Center for Atmospheric Research. "Scientists Find Elusive Waves In Sun's Corona." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070830150113.htm>.
National Center for Atmospheric Research. (2007, August 31). Scientists Find Elusive Waves In Sun's Corona. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070830150113.htm
National Center for Atmospheric Research. "Scientists Find Elusive Waves In Sun's Corona." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070830150113.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) — The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
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