Feeds

Wobbly sun causes plasma jets

127-year-old mystery solved

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

New hybrid storage solutions

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

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Square Kilometre Array reveals its 1.6TB-a-day storage and network rigs
Boolardy Engineering Test Array - aka BETA - is about to come out of Beta
LOHAN invites ENTIRE REG READERSHIP to New Mexico shindig
Well, those of you who back our Kickstarter tin-rattling...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.