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.

Related Articles


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 November 28, 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 November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) The International Space Station is now using a proof-of-concept 3D printer to test additive printing in a weightless, isolated environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Soyuz Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station: NASA

Soyuz Spacecraft Docks With International Space Station: NASA

AFP (Nov. 24, 2014) A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Italy's first female astronaut safely docks with the International Space Station, according to NASA. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
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