NCAR researcher sheds light on solar storms
New research from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) links a particular magnetic structure on the Sun with the genesis of powerful solar storms that can buffet Earths atmosphere. The research may enable scientists to create more accurate computer models of the solar storms, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), and could eventually point the way to forecasting the storms days before they occur. Sarah Gibson, a scientist at NCARs High Altitude Observatory (HAO), will present her findings at the American Geophysical Union conference in New Orleans on Thursday, May 26. Her invited talk is in recognition of winning this years Karen Harvey Prize. Awarded by the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society, the prize recognizes an early-career scientist who has produced exceptional solar research. CMEs are a focus of solar research because they suddenly and violently release billions of tons of matter and charged particles that escape from the Sun and speed through space. Ejections pointed toward Earth can set off disturbances when they reach the upper atmosphere, affecting satellites, ground-based communications systems, and power grids.
For her research, Gibson turned to a unique data set: white-light images of the lower reaches of the Suns enormous halo, called the corona. Taken by NCARs Mark-IV K-Coronameter on Mauna Loa in Hawaii, the images are sensitive to density alone, avoiding the ambiguity of most other solar images that depend on both temperature and density. The images revealed that lower-density regions in the corona consistent with twisted magnetic field lines can form prior to a CME. The twisted areas, known as magnetic flux ropes, store massive amounts of energy.
"The structures indicate a magnetic system that has enough energy to fuel a CME," Gibson explains. "But their presence is not, by itself, an indication that a CME is about to occur. For that, we need to look at additional characteristics."
The research may put to rest an important debate among solar physicists over whether magnetic flux ropes can form prior to an ejection or are merely present when an ejection takes place. Gibsons findings suggest that, to understand the forces that create CMEs, solar scientists should use magnetic flux ropes as starting points for computer models of the massive storms.
To conduct her study, Gibson used Mark-IV images to observe dark, lower-density areas, known as cavities, that can be formed by the strong, sheared magnetic fields of magnetic flux ropes. She and NCAR colleagues analyzed 13 cavity systems from November 1999 to January 2004. Seven of these systems could be associated with CMEs, and four cavities were directly observed by the coronameter to erupt as CMEs. Gibson used a second technique to identify an additional eight CMEs that erupted from already-formed cavities. She found those cases by gathering images of CMEs and backtracking to see whether cavities existed at those CME sites before each eruption.
One of Gibsons next steps will be to analyze cavities that result in CMEs to determine whether they have identifiable characteristics that may help scientists forecast a CME. Her preliminary findings indicate that a cavity begins to bulge and rise higher in the corona just before erupting. Cavities may also darken and become more sharply defined prior to eruption.
Gibson will also try to determine how widespread cavities are, and if it is possible that most, or even all, CMEs are preceded by the formation of magnetic flux ropes. Beginning next year, she will supplement the Mauna Loa observations with data from a pair of new NASA satellites, known as STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory). Instruments aboard STEREO will provide stereoscopic measurements and 24-hour coverage of the lower solar corona, significantly increasing the chances of directly observing cavities erupting into CMEs.
Anatta | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
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:...
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...
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,...