Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Queen's scientists discover giant solar twists

Scientists at Queen's University have made a finding that will help us to understand more about the turbulent solar weather and its affect on our planet.

Along with scientists at the University of Sheffield and California State University, the researchers have detected giant twisting waves in the lower atmosphere of the Sun.

The discovery sheds some light on why the Sun's corona, the region around the Sun, has a much higher temperature than its surface - something that has always puzzled scientists.

The surface of the sun, known as the photosphere, can reach temperatures of 5,000 degrees. To many it would seem logical that the temperature would lower further away from the sun. But, the outer atmosphere, known as the corona, has been shown to reach temperatures of over a million degrees.

The recent discovery by the scientists, published today in the respected journal Science, has revealed the existence of a new breed of solar wave, called the Alfvén wave. This solar wave has been shown to transport energy into the Corona or outer layer.

The waves have been named after Hannes Alfvén who in 1942 received a Nobel Prize for his work in the area. He suggested the existence of the waves but no hard evidence was ever produced, until recently, when Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis and Dr David Jess of Queen's, made the discovery using the Swedish Solar Telescope in the Canary Islands.

The new findings reveal how the waves carry heat and why this happens. The unique magnetic oscillations spread upward from the solar surface to the Sun's corona with an average speed of 20km per second, carrying enough energy to heat the plasma to more than a few million degrees.

Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis, leader of the Queen's University Solar Group, said: "Understanding solar activity and its influence on the Earth's climate is of paramount importance for human kind. The Sun is not as quiet as many people think.

"The solar corona, visible from Earth only during a total solar eclipse, is a very dynamic environment which can erupt suddenly, releasing more energy than ten billion atomic bombs. Our study makes a major advancement in the understanding of how the million-degree corona manages to achieve this feat."

Dr David Jess, from Queen's University Belfast and lead author of the paper written on the discovery said: "Often, waves can be visualized by the rippling of water when a stone is dropped into a pond, or by the motions of a guitar string when plucked.

"Alfvén waves though cannot be seen so easily. In fact, they are completely invisible to the naked eye. Only by examining the motions of structures and their corresponding velocities in the Sun's turbulent atmosphere could we find, for the first time, the presence of these elusive Alfvén waves."

Professor Robert von Fay-Siebenburgen from the University of Sheffield's Department of Applied Mathematics, said: "The heat was on to find evidence for the existence of Alfvén waves. International space agencies have invested considerable resources trying to find purely magnetic oscillations of plasmas in space, particularly in the Sun. These waves, once detected, can be used to determine the physical conditions in the invisible regions of the Sun and other stars."

Professor Keith Mason, CEO of the Science and technology Facilities Council (STFC), who funded the work said: "These are extremely interesting results. Understanding the processes of our Sun is incredibly important as it provides the energy which allows life to exist on Earth and can affect our planet in many different ways. This new finding of magnetic waves in the Sun's lower atmosphere brings us closer to understanding its complex workings and its future effects on the Earth's atmosphere."

For further information please contact Emma Blee, Queen's Press and PR Unit, Tel: 028 90 97 2576 or Lauren Anderson, Media Relations Assistant, University of Sheffield. Tel: Tel: 0114 222 1046 or email:

Lisa Mitchell | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Scientists discover particles similar to Majorana fermions
25.10.2016 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

nachricht Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

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: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>