Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Giant Solar Twists Discovered

Date:
March 20, 2009
Source:
Queen's University Belfast
Summary:
Scientists have made a finding that will help us to understand more about turbulent solar weather and its effect on our planet. The researchers have detected giant twisting waves in the lower atmosphere of the Sun.

The twist applied to magnetic field lines in the solar atmosphere induce an upward propagating Alfvén wave.
Credit: Image courtesy of Queen's University Belfast

Scientists at Queen's University have made a finding that will help us to understand more about the turbulent solar weather and its effect on our planet. Along with scientists at the University of Sheffield and California State University, the researchers have detected giant twisting waves in the lower atmosphere of the Sun.

The discovery sheds some light on why the Sun's corona, the region around the Sun, has a much higher temperature than its surface - something that has always puzzled scientists.

The surface of the sun, known as the photosphere, can reach temperatures of 5,000 degrees. To many it would seem logical that the temperature would lower further away from the sun. But, the outer atmosphere, known as the corona, has been shown to reach temperatures of over a million degrees.

The recent discovery by the scientists, published March 20 in the journal Science, has revealed the existence of a new breed of solar wave, called the Alfvén wave. This solar wave has been shown to transport energy into the Corona or outer layer.

The waves have been named after Hannes Alfvén who in 1942 received a Nobel Prize for his work in the area. He suggested the existence of the waves but no hard evidence was ever produced, until recently, when Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis and Dr David Jess of Queen's, made the discovery using the Swedish Solar Telescope in the Canary Islands.

The new findings reveal how the waves carry heat and why this happens. The unique magnetic oscillations spread upward from the solar surface to the Sun's corona with an average speed of 20km per second, carrying enough energy to heat the plasma to more than a few million degrees.

Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis, leader of the Queen's University Solar Group, said: "Understanding solar activity and its influence on the Earth's climate is of paramount importance for human kind. The Sun is not as quiet as many people think.

"The solar corona, visible from Earth only during a total solar eclipse, is a very dynamic environment which can erupt suddenly, releasing more energy than ten billion atomic bombs. Our study makes a major advancement in the understanding of how the million-degree corona manages to achieve this feat."

Dr David Jess, from Queen's University Belfast and lead author of the paper written on the discovery said: "Often, waves can be visualized by the rippling of water when a stone is dropped into a pond, or by the motions of a guitar string when plucked.

"Alfvén waves though cannot be seen so easily. In fact, they are completely invisible to the naked eye. Only by examining the motions of structures and their corresponding velocities in the Sun's turbulent atmosphere could we find, for the first time, the presence of these elusive Alfvén waves."

Professor Robert von Fay-Siebenburgen from the University of Sheffield's Department of Applied Mathematics, said: "The heat was on to find evidence for the existence of Alfvén waves. International space agencies have invested considerable resources trying to find purely magnetic oscillations of plasmas in space, particularly in the Sun. These waves, once detected, can be used to determine the physical conditions in the invisible regions of the Sun and other stars."

Professor Keith Mason, CEO of the Science and technology Facilities Council (STFC), who funded the work said: "These are extremely interesting results. Understanding the processes of our Sun is incredibly important as it provides the energy which allows life to exist on Earth and can affect our planet in many different ways. This new finding of magnetic waves in the Sun's lower atmosphere brings us closer to understanding its complex workings and its future effects on the Earth's atmosphere."

 


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University Belfast. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David B. Jess, Mihalis Mathioudakis, Robert Erdélyi, Philip J. Crockett, Francis P. Keenan, and Damian J. Christian. Alfven Waves in the Lower Solar Atmosphere. Science, 2009; 323 (5921): 1582 DOI: 10.1126/science.1168680

Cite This Page:

Queen's University Belfast. "Giant Solar Twists Discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090320102138.htm>.
Queen's University Belfast. (2009, March 20). Giant Solar Twists Discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090320102138.htm
Queen's University Belfast. "Giant Solar Twists Discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090320102138.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) — The B612 Foundation says asteroids strike Earth much more often than previously thought, and are hoping to build an early warning system. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — NASA administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the 'Human to Mars Summit' in Washington, says that learning more about the Red Planet can help answer the 'fundamental question' of 'life beyond Earth'. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

Nasa Gives You An Excuse to Post a Selfie on Earth Day

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) — NASA is inviting all social media users to take a selfie of themselves alongside nature and to post it to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, or Google Plus with the hashtag #globalselfie. NASA's goal is to crowd-source a collection of snapshots of the earth, ground-up, that will be used to create one "unique mosaic of the Blue Marble." This image will be available to all in May. Since this is probably one of the few times posting a selfie to Twitter won't be embarrassing, we suggest you give it a go for a good cause. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Captured by International Space Station

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 20, 2014) — SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft makes a scheduled Easter Sunday rendezvous with the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). 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