Big Bear Observatory captures groundbreaking images of flaring solar flux ropes
Scientists at NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) have captured the first high-resolution images of the flaring magnetic structures known as solar flux ropes at their point of origin in the Sun's chromosphere. Their research, published today in Nature Communications, provides new insights into the massive eruptions on the Sun's surface responsible for space weather.
Fine details of a magnetic flux rope captured by the New Solar Telescope at Big Bear Solar Observatory for Solar Active Region 11817 on 2013 August 11. The structure is further demonstrated by the 3-D magnetic modeling based the observations of Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager on board Solar Dynamic Observatory.
Credit: Chang Liu
Flux ropes are bundles of magnetic fields that together rotate and twist around a common axis, driven by motions in the photosphere, a high-density layer of the Sun's atmosphere below the solar corona and chromosphere. The NJIT images were taken from observations of the newly commissioned 1.6m New Solar Telescope (NST) at BBSO.
"These twisting magnetic loops have been much studied in the Sun's corona, or outer layer, but these are the first high-resolution images of their origination in the chromosphere below it. For the first time, we can see their twisting motion in great detail and watch how it evolves," said Haimin Wang, distinguished professor of physics at NJIT and the study's lead author.
Wang and his co-authors strung together a series of images which trace the formation of an S-shaped bundle of magnetic fields from which a set of loops peel off and grow upward into a multi-strand flux rope within a few minutes. Two flare ribbons appear at the two sides of the rising flux rope.
"We have been looking for erupting twisted solar flux ropes in the chromosphere, but observations of these eruptions under excellent conditions are very rare," Wang said, adding that the NST images they captured provide unprecedented detail, as well as powerful new clues about their initiation and their relationship to solar eruptions and coronal mass ejections.
Energy releases in solar flares and associated forms of eruptions occur when magnetic field lines, with their powerful underlying electric currents, are twisted beyond a critical point that can be measured by the number of turns in the twist. The largest of these eruptions cause what is known as space weather - the radiation, energetic particles and magnetic field releases from the Sun powerful enough to cause severe effects in Earth's near environment, such as the disruption of communications, power lines and navigations systems.
"One of the exciting things about these new images is that we can now distinguish between mild twists and those severe enough to cause space weather," said Wang, who likened the eruptions to earthquakes, which are energy releases following the build-up of tension as tectonic plates rub against each other along fault lines. The team is developing tools to predict space weather from solar observations and modeling.
One of the nation's leading public technological universities, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is a top-tier research university that prepares students to become leaders in the technology-dependent economy of the 21st century. NJIT's multidisciplinary curriculum and computing-intensive approach to education provide technological proficiency, business acumen and leadership skills. With an enrollment of more than 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, NJIT offers small-campus intimacy with the resources of a major public research university. NJIT is a global leader in such fields as solar research, nanotechnology, resilient design, tissue engineering and cyber-security, in addition to others. NJIT ranks fifth among U.S. polytechnic universities in research expenditures, topping $110 million, and is among the top 1 percent of public colleges and universities in return on educational investment, according to Payscale.com.
Tanya Klein | EurekAlert!
Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems
08.12.2016 | Nagoya Institute of Technology
Will Earth still exist 5 billion years from now?
08.12.2016 | KU Leuven
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:...
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...
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...
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...
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,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences