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!
Electrocatalysis can advance green transition
23.01.2017 | Technical University of Denmark
Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin
23.01.2017 | Ferdinand-Braun-Institut Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik
For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.
According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
24.01.2017 | Information Technology
24.01.2017 | Life Sciences
24.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering