Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bright points in sun's atmosphere mark patterns deep in its interior

Date:
April 17, 2014
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
Like a balloon bobbing along in the air while tied to a child's hand, a tracer has been found in the sun's atmosphere to help track the flow of material coursing underneath the sun's surface.

Brightpoints in the sun's atmosphere, left, correspond to magnetic parcels on the sun's surface, seen in the processed data on the right. Green spots show smaller parcels, red and yellow much bigger ones. Images based on data from NASA's SDO captured at 8 p.m. EDT on May 15, 2010.
Credit: NASA/SDO

New research that uses data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, to track bright points in the solar atmosphere and magnetic signatures on the sun's surface offers a way to probe the star's depths faster than ever before. The technique opens the door for near real-time mapping of the sun's roiling interior -- movement that affects a wide range of events on the sun from its 22-year sunspot cycle to its frequent bursts of X-ray light called solar flares.

"There are all sorts of things lurking below the surface," said Scott McIntosh, first author of a paper on these results in the April 1, 2014, issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. "And we've found a marker for this deep rooted activity. This is kind of a gateway to the interior, and we don't need months of data to get there."

One of the most common ways to probe the sun's interior is through a technique called helioseismology in which scientists track the time it takes for waves -- not unlike seismic waves on Earth -- to travel from one side of the sun to the other. From helioseismology solar scientists have some sense of what's happening inside the sun, which they believe to be made up of granules and super-granules of moving solar material. The material is constantly overturning like boiling water in a pot, but on a much grander scale: A granule is approximately the distance from Los Angeles to New York City; a super-granule is about twice the diameter of Earth.

Instead of tracking seismic waves, the new research probes the solar interior using the Helioseismic Magnetic Imager on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which can map the dynamic magnetic fields that thread through and around the sun. Since 2010, McIntosh has tracked the size of different magnetically-balanced areas on the sun, that is, areas where there are an even number of magnetic fields pointing down in toward the sun as pointing out. Think of it like looking down at a city from above with a technology that observed people, but not walls, and recording areas that have an even number of men and women. Even without seeing the buildings, you'd naturally get a sense for the size of rooms, houses, buildings, and whole city blocks -- the structures in which people naturally group.

The team found that the magnetic parcels they mapped corresponded to the size of granules and supergranules, but they also spotted areas much larger than those previously noted -- about the diameter of Jupiter. It's as if when searching for those pairs of men and women, one suddenly realized that the city itself and the sprawling suburbs was another scale worth paying attention to. The scientists believe these areas correlate to even larger cells of flowing material inside the sun.

The researchers also looked at these regions in SDO imagery of the sun's atmosphere, the corona, using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument. They noticed that ubiquitous spots of extreme ultraviolet and X-ray light, known as brightpoints, prefer to hover around the vertices of these large areas, dubbed g-nodes.

"Imagine a bunch of helium balloons with weights on them," said Robert Leamon, co-author on the paper at Montana State University in Bozeman and NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The weights get carried along by the motions at the bottom. We can track the motion of the helium balloons floating up high and that tells us what's happening down below."

By opening up a way to peer inside the sun quickly, these techniques could provide a straightforward way to map the sun's interior and perhaps even improve our ability to forecast changes in magnetic fields that can lead to solar eruptions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Scott W. McIntosh, Xin Wang, Robert J. Leamon, Philip H. Scherrer. Identifying Potential Markers of the Sun's Giant Convective Scale. The Astrophysical Journal, 2014; 784 (2): L32 DOI: 10.1088/2041-8205/784/2/L32

Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Bright points in sun's atmosphere mark patterns deep in its interior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140417191744.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2014, April 17). Bright points in sun's atmosphere mark patterns deep in its interior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140417191744.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Bright points in sun's atmosphere mark patterns deep in its interior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140417191744.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Space to Ground: Hello Georges

Space to Ground: Hello Georges

NASA (Aug. 18, 2014) Europe's ATV-5 delivers new science and the crew tests smart SPHERES. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Tiny Satellites, Like The One Tossed From ISS, On The Rise

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) The Chasqui I, hand-delivered into orbit by a Russian cosmonaut, is one of hundreds of small satellites set to go up in the next few years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, August 15, 2014

This Week @ NASA, August 15, 2014

NASA (Aug. 15, 2014) Carbon Observatory’s First Data, ATV-5 Delivers Cargo, Cygnus Departs Station and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Shuttle Replica Hoisted for Landmark Exhibit

Space Shuttle Replica Hoisted for Landmark Exhibit

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 14, 2014) The space shuttle replica Independence has been hoisted atop Space Center Houston's shuttle carrier aircraft, creating a monument to the shuttle program which will open to the public next year. 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