Feeds

Wobbly sun causes plasma jets

127-year-old mystery solved

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

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

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
ALIEN BODY FOUND ON MARS: Curiosity rover snaps extraterrestrial
And NASA kept evidence to itself for over a month
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS are FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, though
NASA: ALIENS and NEW EARTHS will be ours inside 20 years
ETs, habitable planets will soon pop up with our new 'scopes
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
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.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.