Scientists prove existence of 'magnetic ropes' that cause solar storms

Jun 15, 2011
Credit: NASA and George Mason University

George Mason University scientists discovered recently that a phenomenon called a giant magnetic rope is the cause of solar storms. Confirming the existence of this formation is a key first step in helping to mitigate the adverse effects that solar storm eruptions can have on satellite communications on Earth.

The discovery was made by associate professor Jie Zhang and his graduate student Xin Cheng using images from the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) spacecraft.

Though the magnetic rope was believed to be the cause of these giant eruptions on the Sun, scientists had previously not been able to prove this phenomenon existed because of how quickly the rope moves.

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Credit: NASA and George Mason University

However, through close examination of images taken by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) telescope on board the , Zhang was able to pinpoint an area of the sun where a magnetic rope was forming. The AIA telescope suite is able to capture images of the Sun every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day. This unprecedented cadence in time helped the discovery.

"The magnetic rope triggers a . Scientists have been debating whether or not this magnetic rope exists before a solar eruption. I believe that the result of this excellent observation helps finally solve this controversial issue," says Zhang.

A solar storm is a violent eruption from the Sun, sending billions of tons of charged material, also called plasma, into space at a speed of more than one million miles per hour. The cloud of plasma carries with it a strong . When the magnetized cloud reaches Earth one to three days later, a huge amount of energy is deposited into the magnetosphere of the Earth.

Normally the Earth's shields this harmful and protects the environment. However, a has the potential to disrupt the shielding effect and produce severe space weather, which can have harmful effects on a wide array of technological systems, including satellite operation, communication and navigation and electric power grids.

Credit: NASA and George Mason University

Zhang's research will help in giving early warning about solar storms and help to minimize the damage done by here on Earth.

"Understanding the eruption process of these storms will definitely help us better predict them," says Zhang. "We cannot prevent solar storms, just like we cannot prevent earthquakes or volcanoes. But the development of prediction capacity can help mitigate adverse effects. For instance, satellite operators can power-down key systems to prevent the possible damage to the systems."

It is widely believed that magnetic fields in the Sun play an essential role in storing energy and powering . However, the exact form that magnetic field lines take prior to the eruption are highly controversial. Most field lines are semi-circular loops with their foot-points rooted on the surface of the Sun. They cannot erupt easily, and in fact, they often play the role of preventing the eruption.

Scientists suspected that the magnetic rope, if it indeed existed, was the phenomenon that powered the eruption. A magnetic rope contains many magnetic field lines wrapping around a center axis and possibly twisting around each other. Because of the twisting, a strong electric current can be carried by the magnetic rope. Theoretically, the electric current could produce a sufficient electro-magnetic force to overcome the overlying constraining force from other field lines and power the magnetic rope to move outward.

AIA images now reveal that, before an eruption, there is a long and low-lying channel running through the entire active region, which heats to a temperature as high as 10 million degrees, and slowly rises. When it reaches a critical point, it starts to erupt quickly. It is a feature distinctly different from the surrounding magnetic field lines. This particular hot channel is now believed to be the magnetic rope that scientists have been looking for.

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Provided by George Mason University

4.8 /5 (9 votes)

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User comments : 23

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Donutz
5 / 5 (1) Jun 15, 2011
That is so cool!
DontBeBlind
4 / 5 (5) Jun 15, 2011
I think you mean Hot ! :) :)
Cin5456
5 / 5 (1) Jun 15, 2011
Fantastic watching it form and erupt!
GSwift7
4 / 5 (2) Jun 15, 2011
I wonder what the maximum constraints are? They sould be governed by basic physics, so should therefore be calcuable. I wonder also how often it reaches the max potential? It should behave like most natural phenomena like tornados in the sense that it is rare to see a really big one, but just how rare? Every 100 years, thousand years, million years? And the follow-up to that is; what would a max event do to the Earth?
Bob_Kob
5 / 5 (3) Jun 15, 2011
Damn if that isn't the sexiest image of the sun i've seen.

They sould be governed by basic physics


Nothing is basic when talking about magnetic interactions on plasma on the surface of a star :)
omatumr
1 / 5 (9) Jun 15, 2011
George Mason University scientists discovered the giant magnetic rope that causes solar storms.


Congratulations!

Now the question is whether the rope originates near the compact, energetic core of the Sun [1], as reported in 2002 [2].

1. Compact, energetic solar core:

www.omatumr.com/P...core.htm

2. "Super-fluidity in the solar interior: Implications for solar eruptions and climate", Journal of Fusion Energy 21, 193-198 (2002):

http://arxiv.org/.../0501441

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel

Shelgeyr
1.6 / 5 (7) Jun 15, 2011
The cloud of plasma carries with it a strong magnetic field.


The strong magnetic fields are created by and powered by strong electric currents. They're called "Birkeland Currents", or "Field-Aligned Currents". They self-pinch (called a "Bennett Pinch", or "Z-Pinch"), and to quote Wikipedia (of all places) "A pinch is the compression of an electrically conducting filament by magnetic forces."

These "newly discovered" "magnetic ropes" are neither. They're Birkeland Current-powered filamentary vortices. They've been observed, documented, and explained for quite some time now.

A magnetic rope contains many magnetic field lines wrapping around a center axis and possibly twisting around each other.


There is no such thing as a "magnetic field line" in extant reality. They're simply things we draw to indicate a magnetic field's strength and vector. Theyre not real. The magnetic field itself is a non-discontinuous gradient, devoid of "lines".
Pyle
5 / 5 (5) Jun 15, 2011
non-discontinuous gradient
continuous maybe? It really is easier to understand when you don't put two negating prefixes on words. Sorry, low hanging fruit.

Anyway, the term Birkeland Currents is loaded. Not that it is wrong, just loaded. Anyone worth his salt understands that magnetic field lines aren't "lines" except in graphical depictions. What is newly discovered is direct observations of the "ropes" occurring immediately prior to solar activity.

What I am curious about is how much warning observing the ropes gives versus just waiting for the eruption. Sounds like this would be somewhat like forecasting tornadoes. Not very exact.

Zak_Mc_Kee
1 / 5 (8) Jun 16, 2011
Wow there just now proving things that where know over 2000 years ago, give them a cookie. God bless America lmoa:)Been saying it since the 5th grade lol. least now I'm proven right. Wish some rich kid would jump on the rest of my ideas.
Shelgeyr
2.3 / 5 (6) Jun 16, 2011
Pyle, If the statement "anyone worth his salt understands that magnetic field lines aren't 'lines' except in graphical depictions" was true, why is the article written in such a way that a plain reading leads one to believe the "lines" are real things performing real actions - which they aren't?

The term "non-discontinuous gradient" (as opposed to "continuous gradient" or simply "gradient") is used to set it as a negation of the concept of "lines", which would constitute a "discontinuous gradient".

Thank you for agreeing that the term "Birkeland Currents" is not wrong. But how is it loaded? And is "Field-Aligned Currents" likewise loaded? Either will do, so long as the reader understands what it is that's being referred to...
wildfire
1.6 / 5 (5) Jun 16, 2011
This rope theory sounds to me, to be a lot like the space elevator theory that I had written about in a past issue. Where I stated there was a field in the Bermuda triangle. As the true North pole and the true South pole was in the China Sea which either could be used as a space ship elevator which could push a ship upward into space. Inventor Todd J. Tocco
Mahal_Kita
1 / 5 (2) Jun 16, 2011
This rope theory sounds to me, to be a lot like the space elevator theory that I had written about in a past issue. Where I stated there was a field in the Bermuda triangle. As the true North pole and the true South pole was in the China Sea which either could be used as a space ship elevator which could push a ship upward into space. Inventor Todd J. Tocco


Do you have any proof of a 'field' in the Bremuda Triangle? Do you have ANY idea at all what forces are involved? A human or ship for that matter would more likely be vaporized (and then some..) than elevated..
Mahal_Kita
1 / 5 (1) Jun 16, 2011
This rope theory sounds to me, to be a lot like the space elevator theory that I had written about in a past issue. Where I stated there was a field in the Bermuda triangle. As the true North pole and the true South pole was in the China Sea which either could be used as a space ship elevator which could push a ship upward into space. Inventor Todd J. Tocco


Do you have any proof of a 'field' in the Bremuda Triangle? Do you have ANY idea at all what forces are involved? A human or ship for that matter would more likely be vaporized (and then some..) than elevated..


Ah.. Rope.. Elevator.. I get it. Have you forgotten to take your medicine again this morning?
Mahal_Kita
4 / 5 (1) Jun 16, 2011
Wow there just now proving things that where know over 2000 years ago, give them a cookie. God bless America lmoa:)Been saying it since the 5th grade lol. least now I'm proven right. Wish some rich kid would jump on the rest of my ideas.


Know what exactly, Zac? And where can I find your 2000 year old, 6th grade idea documented? So spell out 'the rest of your ideas' and publish 'm.. Hey I will even provide free webspace for them.
Pyle
5 / 5 (6) Jun 16, 2011
First off, Zac = bot most likely. Just ignore it.

Shel, whenever I see Birkeland Currents I immediately shut down the receptive part of my brain and say to myself "Look out! Here comes more Electric Universe / ambiplasma crap." So that is what I mean by loaded. Maybe it is just me.

Regarding your non-discontinuous, OK. I still think it is much clearer to just say continuous, but I guess that is just style. Trust me, I am no fashion police.

Back to the lines bit. Magnetic field lines on a graphical depiction are like lines on a topographical map. The use of the word lines to be performing real actions is analogous to the ridge line of a mountain. It is the area of highest potential / energy or strongest field strength. When multiple ridges (aka lines) gather into a "rope" the scientists observed a solar eruption. Using lines helps the casual reader and for the informed I think it is understood what is really being said. Where is your beef?
Shelgeyr
2.7 / 5 (3) Jun 16, 2011
Pyle, I think we're in "violent agreement" here. I can tell we differ on some points, but when it comes to understanding "magnetic field lines" we apparently think the same thing. My beef isn't with YOU, it is with how the terminology is (mis)used in articles like this. Contrary to your "anyone worth his salt" line, I've encountered many people who believed the lines were real (invisible) things, and to back up their side they'd point to this type of rhetoric.

Then, of course, their eyes glaze over when someone like me tries to set them straight.

As far as "Electric Universe" terms, I've got tons of documents from arxiv.org (by searching using "plasma electric discharge" as terms)- NOT produced by EU people as far as I know, that use EU-sounding or EU-relevant terms. Careful what you discard - "Birkeland Current" is a pretty common term these days. And, of course, as time goes by we're finding more and more astronomical electric currents in plasma.
Pyle
5 / 5 (3) Jun 16, 2011
Sorry Shelgeyr. I was just nit picking, not disagreeing with you. Thought your rhetoric was a little strong so I was kind of suggesting the authors weren't as bad as you suggested. Besides, my E/U radar was up and I had some free time so...
omatumr
1 / 5 (6) Jun 17, 2011
The strong magnetic fields are created by and powered by strong electric currents.


No. They come from the Sun's compact, energetic core ["Super-fluidity in the solar interior: Implications for solar eruptions and climate", Journal of Fusion Energy 21, 193-198 (2002)]

http://arxiv.org/.../0501441

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
Shelgeyr
2.3 / 5 (6) Jun 18, 2011
Now Oliver, please!

I know that we disagree about the existence (or lack) of a neutron-star core in our sun... But even you, with your well-learned background, know that all magnetic fields are created by electric currents, i.e. that electric currents are the only things that CAN create magnetic fields. True for electromagnets, true for permanent magnets, true everywhere, and very probably even the reason for "charge posturing" among quarks at the sub-atomic level.

IF the sun has a "compact, energetic core", which since I know what you're referring to I'm not going to grant, but "if" it does, then the reason for the strong magnetic fields still remains the same - strong electric currents, albeit in your model they'd have to permeate the core, and frankly I flat don't remember if "color superconductivity" has anything to do with electrical conductivity - super or otherwise - because I haven't been focusing on a functional area I don't believe exists outside of mathematical models.
omatumr
1 / 5 (6) Jun 18, 2011
Now Oliver, please!

But even you, with your well-learned background, know that all magnetic fields are created by electric currents, i.e. that electric currents are the only things that CAN create magnetic fields.


Wrong again.

Your evidence for electric currents in neutrons?

Your evidence for electric currents in neutron stars?

Pyle
5 / 5 (3) Jun 19, 2011
electric currents are the only things that CAN create magnetic fields.
Wrong again.

Your evidence for electric currents in neutrons?

Your evidence for electric currents in neutron stars?

How was he wrong omatumor? Last I checked magnetic fields were caused by electric currents. What exactly are you saying?
Shelgeyr
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 19, 2011
Oliver, I'm going to answer both questions, but I have to provide an outside URL for the first answer, which I think is frowned upon, so I ask your forbearance.

A1) I am greatly impressed by the work of Bengt Nyman, who has published the website "dipole.se" (that's the URL). He does a much, much better job at explaining "charge posturing" than I can (at all, much less in the space allowed here). Please see his site and scroll down to either the subsection "The quark family Anatomy of the hadrons", or a little further to "The Neutron". Mr. Nyman does not address "electric currents in neutrons" directly, but you can extrapolate one from the movement of the quark charges which create the neutron's dipole structure.

A2) I don't believe there are such things are neutron stars, for reasons to lengthy to get into here. Ergo, I have no evidence for electric currents in them as the point is moot. I had said "if the sun has a compact, energetic core" previously.
Shelgeyr
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 24, 2011
Just to touch on my answer #1 above for a moment, I thought it might be fun to point out this new article, apparently posted today here on physorg.com, wherein they mention (way down in the article):
A second experiment is in preparation to look at one of the fundamental properties of the neutron-its electric dipole moment.


The URL for that other article is:
http://www.physor...tal.html

If neutrons do indeed have an electric dipole moment, then all else follows regarding them (since they move), i.e. electric current, magnetic field, etc., all the stuff that would apply to Oliver's questions to me about neutrons/magentic fields.

Rigorous honesty demands that I admit it won't help (or hurt) my views about neutron stars, but that's an entirely different story.

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