Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A bubbling ball of gas

13.11.2009
The Sun is a bubbling mass. Packages of gas rise and sink, lending the sun its grainy surface structure, its granulation. Dark spots appear and disappear, clouds of matter dart up - and behind the whole thing are the magnetic fields, the engines of it all.

The SUNRISE balloon-borne telescope, a collaborative project between the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau and partners in Germany, Spain and the USA, has now delivered images that show the complex interplay on the solar surface to a level of detail never before achieved.

The largest solar telescope ever to have left Earth was launched from the ESRANGE Space Centre in Kiruna, northern Sweden, on June 8, 2009. The total equipment weighed in at more than six tons on launch. Carried by a gigantic helium balloon with a capacity of a million cubic metres and a diameter of around 130 metres, SUNRISE reached a cruising altitude of 37 kilometres above the Earth's surface.

The observation conditions in this layer of the atmosphere, known as the stratosphere, are similar to those in outer space: for one thing, the images are no longer affected by air turbulence; and for another, the camera can also zoom in on the Sun in ultraviolet light, which would otherwise be absorbed by the ozone layer. After separating from the balloon, SUNRISE parachuted safely down to Earth on June 14th, landing on Somerset Island, a large island in Canada's Nunavut Territory situated in the Northwest Passage, the seaway through the Arctic Ocean between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

The work of analysing the total of 1.8 terabytes of observation data recorded by the telescope during its five-day flight has only just begun. Yet the first findings already give a promising indication that the mission will bring our understanding of the Sun and its activity a great leap forward. What is particularly interesting is the connection between the strength of the magnetic field and the brightness of tiny magnetic structures. Since the magnetic field varies in an eleven-year cycle of activity, the increased presence of these foundational elements brings a rise in overall solar brightness - resulting in greater heat input to the Earth.

The variations in solar radiation are particularly pronounced in ultraviolet light. This light does not reach the surface of the Earth; the ozone layer absorbs and is warmed by it. During its flight through the stratosphere, SUNRISE carried out the first ever study of the bright magnetic structures on the solar surface in this important spectral range with a wavelength of between 200 and 400 nanometres (millionths of a millimetre).

"Thanks to its excellent optical quality, the SUFI instrument was able to depict the very small magnetic structures with high intensity contrast, while the IMaX instrument simultaneously recorded the magnetic field and the flow velocity of the hot gas in these structures and their environment," says Dr. Achim Gandorfer, project scientist for SUNRISE at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research.

Previously, the observed physical processes could only be simulated with complex computer models. "Thanks to SUNRISE, these models can now be placed on a solid experimental basis," explains Prof. Manfred Schüssler, solar scientist at the MPS and co-founder of the mission.

In addition to the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, numerous other research facilities are also involved in the SUNRISE mission: the Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics in Freiburg, the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder (Colorado), the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias on Tenerife, the Lockheed-Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto (California), NASA's Columbia Scientific Ballooning Facility and the ESRANGE Space Centre. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics through the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

Related links:

[1] Video: surface of the Sun in close up (5 MB)
http://mpg.de/video/sunSurface.wmv
[2] "Reaching for the Sun…" Article in MaxPlanckResearch
http://www.mpg.de/english/illustrationsDocumentation/multimedia/mpResearch/2009/heft03/032/

Dr. Norbert Krupp | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mps.mpg.de

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems
08.12.2016 | Nagoya Institute of Technology

nachricht Will Earth still exist 5 billion years from now?
08.12.2016 | KU Leuven

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>