Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Solar prominences put on strange and beautiful show in the Sun's sky

Date:
July 5, 2013
Source:
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)
Summary:
Cloud spotting seems to be growing in popularity as a hobby here on Earth. Now scientists studying the solar atmosphere are building their own collection of fascinating moving features that they’ve spotted in the Sun’s sky.  The unusual solar prominences include a giant disc that rotates for several hours, feathery streamers as long as fifty Earths, a super-heated jet striking the top of a prominence and twisted ribbons flowing in opposite directions at a million kilometers per hour.

Rotating disc motions.
Credit: NASA/SDO/Li/Smith/Aberystwyth University

Cloud spotting seems to be growing in popularity as a hobby here on Earth. Now scientists studying the solar atmosphere are building their own collection of fascinating moving features that they've spotted in the Sun's sky. The unusual solar prominences include a giant disc that rotates for several hours, feathery streamers as long as fifty Earths, a super-heated jet striking the top of a prominence and twisted ribbons flowing in opposite directions at a million kilometres per hour.

The features were discovered by Dr Xing Li and PhD student, Jeff Smith, of Aberystwyth University using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) telescope on board the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) satellite. The findings have been presented at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in St Andrews.

Prominences are -- relatively -- cold gaseous features, with temperatures around 5000 degrees Celsius compared to the surrounding the hot solar atmosphere of about 1-2 million degrees. They can be seen as towering features extending outwards from the Sun's surface, often in the shape of a loop. They are called filaments when viewed against the solar disc, appearing as dark stripes because the cold gases they contain absorb the light emitted from below. Solar prominences and filaments supply most of the material released in coronal mass ejections, eruptions from the Sun's atmosphere that can cause space weather and create geomagnetic storms on Earth.

Rotating discs in solar prominences were first observed decades ago, using ground-based telescopes, and have puzzled solar physicists since. The new SDO observations of a rotating disc reveal that the feature covered a temperature range from a few thousand to one million degrees Celsius. Li and Smith believe that the rotation was caused by turbulence produced at the interface of two gases of enormously different temperatures.

"We think the rotation is produced when hot gases enter a cold medium in an organised fashion. The magnetic field serves as a thermal barrier between the two media. The resulting rotation can last hours," said Li.

The persistent horizontal motion of feathery streamers from a solar prominence was observed by SDO over a period of more than 15 hours. Li and Smith believe that the likely cause was a large-scale, slow restructuring of the magnetic field through a process called magnetic reconnection.

In a further observation, lasting around three hours, a jet of superheated gases as hot as 1.5 -- 2 million degrees Celsius was sucked from the coronal cavity surrounding a prominence and spiralled up along a helical path to strike the top of prominence 50 000 km high.

"The feat of the jet hitting the top of the prominence, and the distances involved, is comparable to a ballistic missile hitting a satellite in geostationary orbit!" said Li.

Finally the SDO imagery showed counter-streaming flows at more than a million kilometres per hour along a filament channel consisting of many very thin threads.

"These fabulous motions suggest more complex magnetic structures of filaments/prominences than scientists previously thought," said Li.

Smith added: "These events are beautiful to observe and also set a fascinating challenge to get to the bottom of the physics involved."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). "Solar prominences put on strange and beautiful show in the Sun's sky." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130705101636.htm>.
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). (2013, July 5). Solar prominences put on strange and beautiful show in the Sun's sky. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130705101636.htm
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). "Solar prominences put on strange and beautiful show in the Sun's sky." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130705101636.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

French Apple Fans Discover the Apple Watch

French Apple Fans Discover the Apple Watch

AFP (Sep. 30, 2014) — Apple fans in France discover the latest toy, the Apple Watch. The watch comes in two sizes and an array of interchangeable, fashionable wrist straps. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun

The Water You Drink Might Be Older Than The Sun

Newsy (Sep. 27, 2014) — Researchers at the University of Michigan simulated the birth of planets and our sun to determine whether water in the solar system predates the sun. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Woman Cosmonaut in 17 Years Blasts Off for ISS

First Woman Cosmonaut in 17 Years Blasts Off for ISS

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) — A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts, including the first woman cosmonaut in 17 years, blasted off on schedule Friday. Duration: 00:35 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Water Discovery On Small Planet Could Be Key To Earth 2.0

Water Discovery On Small Planet Could Be Key To Earth 2.0

Newsy (Sep. 25, 2014) — Scientists have discovered traces of water in the atmosphere of a distant, Neptune-sized planet. Video provided by Newsy
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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