Giant pipe organ in the solar atmosphere

Apr 19, 2007

Astronomers have found that the atmosphere of the Sun plays a kind of heavenly music. The magnetic field in the outer regions (the corona) of our nearest star forms loops that carry waves and behave rather like a musical instrument.

In a talk on Thursday 19 April at the Royal Astronomical Society National Astronomy Meeting in Preston, Dr Youra Taroyan and Professor Robert von Fay-Siebenburgen of the Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Centre (SP2RC), University of Sheffield will explain the origin of these magnetic sound waves. They will present a series of animations and sound files that demonstrate how these dramatic events appear and fade away rapidly.

In recent years scientists have worked hard to better explain and predict the dynamic behaviour of the Sun. For example, missions like STEREO and Hinode watch as material is ejected towards the Earth, events which are controlled by the solar magnetic field.

In their research, led by Professor von Fay-Siebenburgen, SP2RC scientists combined observations with new theoretical models to study the magnetic sound waves that are set up along loops in the corona. “These loops can be up to 100 million kilometres long and guide waves and oscillations in a similar way to a pipe organ.” - says Dr Taroyan

The acoustic waves can be extremely powerful and reach amplitudes of tens of kilometres per second. Professor von Fay-Siebenburgen adds, “we found that the waves are often generated at the base of the magnetic pipes by enormous explosions known as micro-flares. These release energy equivalent to millions of hydrogen bombs. After each micro-flare, sound booms are rapidly excited inside the magnetic pipes before decaying in less than an hour and dissipating in the very hot solar corona.”

Source: Royal Astronomical Society

Explore further: Galaxy clusters collide—dark matter still a mystery

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How particle accelerator maths helped me fix my Wi-Fi

Mar 25, 2015

Electromagnetic radiation – it might sound like something that you'd be better off avoiding, but electromagnetic waves of various kinds underpin our senses and how we interact with the world – from the ...

Mission studies the Sun in soft X-rays

Mar 24, 2015

At any given moment, our sun emits a range of light waves far more expansive than what our eyes alone can see: from visible light to extreme ultraviolet to soft and hard X-rays. Different wavelengths can ...

Electron spins controlled using sound waves

Mar 09, 2015

The ability to control the intrinsic angular momentum of individual electrons – their "spins" – could lead to a world of new technologies that involve storing and processing information.

Recommended for you

Galaxy clusters collide—dark matter still a mystery

9 hours ago

When galaxy clusters collide, their dark matters pass through each other, with very little interaction. Deepening the mystery, a study by scientists at EPFL and the University of Edinburgh challenges the ...

Using 19th century technology to time travel to the stars

14 hours ago

In the late 19th century, astronomers developed the technique of capturing telescopic images of stars and galaxies on glass photographic plates. This allowed them to study the night sky in detail. Over 500,000 ...

Automation offers big solution to big data in astronomy

Mar 24, 2015

It's almost a rite of passage in physics and astronomy. Scientists spend years scrounging up money to build a fantastic new instrument. Then, when the long-awaited device finally approaches completion, the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.