Feeds

Wobbly sun causes plasma jets

127-year-old mystery solved

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The essential guide to IT transformation

A group of scientists has come up with a new explanation for the origins of spicules - jets of plasma that shoot up from the solar surface at speeds of around 90,000 kilometres per hour: the solar matter is propelled into space by sound waves entering the solar atmosphere.

Using observational data from two satellites (TRACE and SOHO) and an the Swedish Solar optical telescope, scientists at Sheffield university and the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics lab, have determined that the jets occur periodically, about every five minutes or so.

Professor Erdélyi von Fáy-Siebenbürgen then developed a computer simulation of the events, incorporating the effects of compression waves, or sounds waves, in the sun. He explained that the compression waves are most likely caused by two things: the oscillation of the sun itself, and convection cells - areas of rising and falling solar matter. Convection cells on Earth cause thermals, breezes, thunderstorms and other weather patterns. In the sun, they cause compression waves..

The compression waves are usually damped before they reach the solar atmosphere, von Fáy-Siebenbürgen said, but occasionally they get through. When this happens, the compression of the atmosphere forms a shock wave, propelling matter upwards in the form of a plasma jet. The research solves an astrophysical puzzle that has baffled scientists for over 120 years since the spicules were first discovered.

His model produced jets at virtually identical intervals: "I would say it is around 99 per cent accurate," he told The Register today. "We were very surprised by the accuracy of the model. It is something we are very proud of," he said.

Although relatively small compared to full scale solar flares, spicules are interesting for the same reasons: they may contribute to the solar wind. This flow of highly charged particles causes the Aurorae Borealis and Australis, but can also knock out satellites and even bring down electrical systems on Earth during particularly vigarous solar storms. ®

Related stories

Mission to map the Aurorae launches 26 July
ESA to probe Earth's magnetic field
In the event of nuclear attack, your data is safe

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?