Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Solar Observatories Discovering a hidden source of solar surges

High-definition images of the Sun´s surface (left) and lower chromosphere (right) observed with the New Solar Telescope

This region of the Sun displays a some dark structures (solar pores) and the convective pattern (granulation) in which they are immersed. 

The region in the white circle is zoomed-out to show the action of the magnetic flux rope that interacts with the plasma and deforms the shape of the granules. 

At the lower part in the right image the scientists detected the ejection of a plasma surge extending thousands of miles.

Cutting-edge observations with the 1.6-meter telescope at Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) in California have taken research into the structure and activity of the Sun to new levels of understanding.

Operated by New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), the telescope at Big Bear is the most powerful ground-based instrument dedicated to studying the Sun.

A group of astronomers led by Dr. Santiago Vargas Dominguez has analyzed the highest- resolution solar observations ever made.

A summary of their work at BBSO was presented on June 2 at the 224th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, held in Boston, Massachusetts.

The NJIT researchers reported on the emergence of buoyant "small-scale" magnetic-flux ropes on the solar surface and the initiation of powerful plasma eruptions in the solar atmosphere.

The observations were performed as part of a program conducted jointly with NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) mission, Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and Hinode satellite.

These observations provided a unique view of a magnetic-flux rope in the Sun's surface-granulation pattern that was 6,000 miles long, and the interaction between newly emergent and overlying ambient magnetic fields.

Solar activity entails numerous processes occurring in the star nearest to Earth. These processes have far-reaching effects, generating "space weather" that brings bursts of charged particles and high-energy radiation in the direction of Earth at nearly the speed of light.

Cartoon illustrating the action of a six-thousand miles long magnetic flux rope rising up from the solar interior and stretching the granules.  
The interaction between the emerged and the ambient magnetic fields produces impulsive heating and an ejection of a plasma surge.

The magnetic field generated in the solar interior and brought to the surface creates a wide variety of structures, with sunspots being the most well-known.

Sunspots can cover large areas of the surface of the Sun, up to several times the size of Earth. They can persist for weeks or even months before vanishing.

Associated with the evolution of sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections are especially intense during the solar maximum, the period of greatest activity in the 11-year solar cycle.

Multiple phenomena can also occur on "smaller" spatial scales of several thousand miles, and in a matter of minutes.

Believed to be driven by the interaction of magnetic fields, these events occur with greater frequency and appear to be directly responsible for continuous heating of the solar atmosphere.

More information: "Multi-wavelength high-resolution observations of a small-scale emerging magnetic flux event and the chromospheric and coronal response." Santiago Vargas Dominguez, Alexander Kosovichev, Vasyl Yurchyshyn. arXiv:1405.3550 [astro-ph.SR]. arxiv.org/abs/1405.3550

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