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Puffing sun gives birth to reluctant eruption

Date:
June 23, 2014
Source:
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)
Summary:
A suite of Sun-gazing spacecraft, SOHO, STEREO and Solar DynamicsObservatory (SDO), have spotted an unusual series of eruptions in which aseries of fast 'puffs' force the slow ejection of a massive burst of plasmafrom the Sun's corona. The eruptions took place over a period of threedays, starting on 17 January 2013.

The same jet as in the previous movies, this time viewed by the Extreme Ultra-Violet Imager (EUVI) onboard the STEREO mission. The combination of the two viewpoints enables a good idea of the 3D configuration of the events.
Credit: STEREO/U. Aberystwyth

A suite of Sun-gazing spacecraft, SOHO, STEREO and Solar DynamicsObservatory (SDO), have spotted an unusual series of eruptions in which aseries of fast 'puffs' force the slow ejection of a massive burst of plasmafrom the Sun's corona. The eruptions took place over a period of threedays, starting on 17 January 2013. Images and animations of the phenomenawill be presented at the National Astronomy Meeting 2014 in Portsmouth byNathalia Alzate on Monday 23 June.

The Sun's outermost layer, the corona, is a magnetised plasma that has atemperature of millions of degrees and extends millions of kilometres intospace. The LASCO C2 coronagraph aboard the SOHO spacecraft observed puffsemanating from the base of the corona and rapidly exploding outwards into
interplanetary space. The puffs occurred approximately once every threehours; after about 12 hours, a much larger eruption of material began,apparently eased out by the smaller-scale explosions. By looking athigh-resolution images taken by SDO and STEREO over the same time period andin different wavelengths, Alzate and her colleagues at the University ofAberystwyth were able to focus down on the cause of the puffs and theinteraction between the small and large-scale eruptions.

"Looking at the corona in Extreme UltraViolet light we see the source of thepuffs is a series of energetic jets and related flares," explained Alzate."The jets are localised, catastrophic releases of energy that spew materialout from the Sun into space. These rapid changes in the magnetic fieldcause flares, which release a huge amount of energy in a very short time inthe form of super-heated plasma, high-energy radiation and radio bursts. Thebig, slow structure is reluctant to erupt, and does not begin to smoothly propagate outwards until several jets have occurred."

Because the events were observed by multiple spacecraft, each viewing theSun from a different perspective, Alzate and her colleagues were able toresolve the 3D configuration of the eruptions. This allowed them toestimate the forces acting on the slow eruption and discuss possiblemechanisms for the interaction between the slow and fast phenomena.

"We still need to understand whether there are shock waves, formed by thejets, passing through and driving the slow eruption, or whether magneticreconfiguration is driving the jets allowing the larger, slow structure toslowly erupt. Thanks to recent advances in observation and in imageprocessing techniques we can throw light on the way jets can lead to smalland fast, and/or large and slow, eruptions from the Sun," said Alzate.

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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). "Puffing sun gives birth to reluctant eruption." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140623092328.htm>.
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). (2014, June 23). Puffing sun gives birth to reluctant eruption. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140623092328.htm
Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). "Puffing sun gives birth to reluctant eruption." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140623092328.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

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