Scientists at the University of Sheffield and Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Lab have solved a 127-year-old problem about the origin of supersonic plasma jets (spicules) which continuously shoot up from the Sun. Their findings are published in today’s edition of Nature.
Spicules, are jets of gas or plasma that are propelled upwards from the surface of the Sun at speeds of about 90,000 kilometres per hour. They are fairly short lived, with each jet lasting only about 5 minutes, but reach heights of 5000 kilometres above the Sun’s surface. Their short life span and small size (less than 600 km) have meant that, although there are about 100,000 spicules at any one time in the Sun’s chromosphere, until now they have remained largely unexplained.
One of the reasons why these energetic jets are studied is because thay may contribute to solar wind. The solar wind is a stream of particles that sweeps past the Earth’s orbit and any disturbance to it can cause changes to the Earth’s upper atmosphere and space environment, damaging satellites in orbit.
Lorna Branton | alfa
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