Scientists from NJIT's Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research are providing some of the first detailed views of the mechanisms that may trigger solar flares, colossal releases of magnetic energy in the Sun's corona that dispatch energized particles capable of penetrating Earth's atmosphere within an hour and disrupting orbiting satellites and electronic communications on the ground.
Recent images captured by the university's 1.6-meter New Solar Telescope at Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) have revealed the emergence of small-scale magnetic fields in the lower reaches of the corona the researchers say may be linked to the onset of a main flare. The study also includes the first scientific contributions from NJIT's newly commissioned Extended Owens Valley Solar Array (EOVSA).
"These smaller magnetic fields appear as precursors to the flare by reconnecting with each other - breaking apart and forming new connections - in an already stressed magnetic environment. This sets the stage for a larger energy release," notes Haimin Wang, distinguished professor of physics at NJIT and the leading author of a paper published this week in the magazine Nature Astronomy. The study, funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA, was conducted in collaboration with colleagues in Japan and China.
"Through our measurements, we are able to see the emergence of fine magnetic channel structures prior to the flare, which contain mixed positive and negative magnetic polarities," Wang adds. "We then see a strong twist in the magnetic lines that creates instability in the system and may trigger the eruption."
While solar flares are generally believed to be powered by what is known as free energy - energy stored in the corona that is released by twisting magnetic fields - the authors suggest that the build-up of coronal energy in the upper atmosphere alone may not be sufficient to trigger a flare. In their study of a prolonged flare on June 22, 2015, they observed in unprecedented detail the emergence in the lower atmosphere of what they call precursors, or "pre-flare brightenings," in various wavelengths.
There are well-documented periods in which flares occur more frequently than the norm, but it has been difficult thus far to determine exactly when and where a particular flare might be initiated. The BBSO's recent study of a flare's magnetic evolution, enhanced by simultaneous microwave observations from EOVSA, has been able to pin down the time and location of the magnetic reconnection prior to the flare.
"Our study may help us predict flares with more precision," Wang says.
A co-author of the article, Kanya Kusano of Nagoya University, compared BBSO's observations with his numerical simulation of the triggering process of solar flares.
"I found that the observational result is very well consistent with the simulation," he notes. "This clearly indicates that these mixed-polarity magnetic channel structures are typical of the stressed magnetic field that triggers solar flares."
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 11,400 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 cybersecurity, in addition to others. NJIT is among the top U.S. polytechnic public universities in research expenditures, exceeding $130 million, and is among the top 1 percent of public colleges and universities in return on educational investment, according to PayScale.com. NJIT has a $1.74 billion annual economic impact on the State of New Jersey.
Tanya Klein | EurekAlert!
UNLV study unlocks clues to how planets form
13.12.2018 | University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Unprecedented Views of the Birth of Planets
13.12.2018 | Universität Heidelberg
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
13.12.2018 | Life Sciences
13.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
13.12.2018 | Earth Sciences