New insights on solar flares support proposed explanation for particle-acceleration mechanism

December 3, 2015, New Jersey Institute of Technology
The speed of fast plasma outflows produced by the flare. The termination shock is shown as a transition layer where the colors change abruptly from red/yellow to blue/green. At bottom is the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array, which captured the termination shock in action using radio observations. Credit: SDO/AIA data is from NASA. VLA image courtesy of NRAO/AUI. Image prepared by Chen, Jibben, and Samra.

For scientists studying the impacts of space weather, one of the central mysteries of solar flares - the colossal release of magnetic energy in the Sun's atmosphere that erupts with the force of millions of hydrogen bombs - is the means by which these explosions produce radiation and accelerate particles to nearly the speed of light within seconds.

A recent set of observations captured by a large radio telescope, the Jansky Very Large Array, has shed light on an elusive structure known as a termination shock that is believed to play a key role in converting released magnetic energy from flares into kinetic energy in accelerated particles.

In an article published in Science magazine this week, "Particle acceleration by a solar flare termination shock," solar scientists imaged the shock and its time evolution during a long-lasting solar flare and demonstrated its role in accelerating particles.

"Although predicted by theoretical models, this is the first time we have had direct images and movies showing the repeated formation, disruption, and reformation of a termination shock, enabling us to link it directly to particle acceleration," said Dale Gary, distinguished professor of physics at NJIT and one of the authors of the article.

The powerful shocks occur when high-speed jets expelled from the explosive energy-release site of a solar flare collide with stationary plasma below. One surprising result is that, occasionally, some jets can disrupt the shock, after which the shock takes time to reform. During the disruptions, radio and X-ray emission due to accelerated particles is observed to decrease not just at the shock, but throughout the emitting region, showing that the shock is at least partly responsible for accelerating those particles.

The observations were made possible by the ability of the newly enhanced Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in New Mexico to acquire the more than 40,000 individual images per second of observation needed to resolve the rapidly varying emission features produced by the termination shock. This level of resolved detail allowed the firm identification of the radio source as a shock and revealed its dynamic evolution. Bin Chen, the lead author of the article, developed the technique to visualize the shock dynamics from the millions of images taken during the event. Chen, currently an astrophysicist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, will join NJIT next January.

"Radio emission is an excellent means to study highly energized particles, because the particles emit radio waves very readily without losing much energy in the process. High-energy particles are not directly visible through optical solar telescopes, while they produce higher-energy X-ray photons mainly when the particles hit the surface of the Sun and release all of their energy," Gary said. "To better understand flares, it is important to detect the particles where they are produced, which is done through radio observations, in addition to where in the solar environment their energy is deposited, which is the role of optical, ultraviolet, and X-ray observations."

Solar flares erupt when stored magnetic energy is suddenly released and converted to other forms, such as high-energy particles, hot plasma at millions of degrees, intense electromagnetic radiation and plasma eruptions called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Solar radiation from the primary flare and that generated secondarily from the coronal mass ejections can affect Earth in many ways. The high-energy particles can destroy the electronic systems in satellites used in telecommunications, weather forecasting and navigation systems, among other services. The electromagnetic radiation can interfere directly with communication and navigation signals, ionize the atmosphere, and cause short-wave radio black-outs. Associated magnetic disturbances can also affect devices on the ground such as power transformers.

The study of flares began in 1859 following what is known as the Carrington Event, a solar flare and associated geomagnetic storm so powerful that it electrified telegraph wires, causing spark discharges that caught paper on fire, caused world-wide magnetic disturbances, and was visible across the globe in the form of auroras. That storm was by some estimates four orders of magnitude stronger than the flare described in the Science article.

"A flare the size of the Carrington event would pose real danger today because of our increasing reliance on susceptible technology," Gary said. "Big events are difficult to predict, however. We have ways of measuring energy build-up, but sometimes when we think a large flare will occur, the energy dissipates quietly or in a series of smaller events instead. Studies like ours provide better understanding of the fundamental processes occurring in flares, and may one day lead to better predictions."

NJIT is expanding its own, solar-dedicated radio telescope, the Expanded Owens Valley Solar Array, to observe the Sun every day with many of the same observational capabilities. Multi-frequency imaging with high frequency and time resolution will become a standard method of studying solar flares in the near future.

Explore further: VLA reveals spectacular 'halos' of spiral galaxies

More information: "Particle acceleration by a solar flare termination shock" Science, … 1126/science.aac8467

Related Stories

Image: Snowing in space?

November 2, 2015

The flurry of what looks like snow in this video is actually a barrage of energetic particles. This is what's known as a solar radiation storm, hitting an instrument onboard ESA/NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, ...

VLA reveals 'bashful' black hole in neighboring galaxy

June 17, 2015

Thanks to the extraordinary sensitivity of the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), astronomers have detected what they believe is the long-sought radio emission coming from a supermassive black hole at the center of one ...

Image: Starbursting in the galaxy M82

February 3, 2014

( —Messier 82 (M82), the galaxy in which the nearest supernova in decades recently exploded, also is the closest galaxy that is undergoing a rapid burst of star formation, known as a starburst. About 12 million ...

Recommended for you

Infant exoplanet weighed by Hipparcos and Gaia

August 21, 2018

The mass of a very young exoplanet has been revealed for the first time using data from ESA's star mapping spacecraft Gaia and its predecessor, the quarter-century retired Hipparcos satellite.

Magnetized inflow accreting to center of Milky Way galaxy

August 17, 2018

Are magnetic fields an important guiding force for gas accreting to a supermassive black hole (SMBH) like the one that our Milky Way galaxy hosts? The role of magnetic fields in gas accretion is little understood, and trying ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.5 / 5 (8) Dec 03, 2015
"Termination shock" is astrophysicist code for a double layer, albeit with grossly misapplied physics. When the basic principles and physics are so completely misunderstood the only likely outcome will be more mysteries and dead ends. Welcome to modern cosmology !
4.3 / 5 (6) Dec 03, 2015

The sound of another EU myth being exposed.
3.7 / 5 (9) Dec 04, 2015
No substance, no consistency, no science, no relevance. Just air...

You forgot 'no evidence'!
3 / 5 (6) Dec 05, 2015
I'd like to propose the BS-hot-air equivalence:

* hot air= plasma

When your beloved astrophysicists (which you guys defend like pious acolytes) figure out the basics of plasma physics you may have a leg to stand on. Until then, all that you spew is the smelly hot air you collect from the asses of the astrophysicists with which your lips are firmly attached.
3 / 5 (6) Dec 05, 2015
Oh yeah, particle acceleration via double layers has been known for nearly 80 years among real plasma physicists. Astrophysicists just seem to be catching on to these facts, the irony being that their explanation requires the use of magic due to their pathetic application of misused physics. It certainly doesn't stop them from using their fantasyland "ideal hot gas" physics to explain the real plasma phenomena.
3 / 5 (6) Dec 05, 2015
No numerical analyses or explanation of how such electrical phenomena are/were to appear? Out of thin air? From some magical process whereby the vacuum spontaneously generates HUMUNGOUS electrical fields which just happen to be in the neighbourhood of said planets?

That presumption is only in your feeble mind.

Why don't we see ANY evidence of similarly gigantic discharges raining DOWN onto the surface of the Sun to support the miserably inept EU claim that the Sun is powered by such???

Once again, presumptions based upon feeble thinking. As Dr. Scott has pointed out, nearly ten times the amount of charge carriers necessary to power the Sun have been measured by NASA spacecraft.

It's obvious from your irrational hand wavy denouncements that it is you who is the impotent Bozo, otherwise you would present some valid scientific reasoning these events cannot happen.
3 / 5 (6) Dec 05, 2015
you have no supporting evidence for the EU claims of planet-wide electrical gouging and machining on colossal scales?

So two bodies, such as the Moon and Earth, cannot have a different charge? Alrighty then...
BTW, the evidence is plentiful, you'd just prefer to believe that water flows uphill. I guess you're allowed to believe in magic if you want.

No mechanisms to explain how the claimed quantities of "charge carriers necessary to power the Sun" are accelerated to the vast energies necessary to induce nuclear reactions at the surface of the Sun?

[Electron drift? Birkeland currents?= power delivery], [Double layers?= particle acceleration], [Dense plasma focus?= fusion]. You clearly know absolutely nothing about real plasma physics, although i admit you share company with a large team of ignorants.
3 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2015
You start with the observed structures, suppose that they are formed with your favourite electrical discharges, and then point to the structures as "evidence" for your electrical discharge theories.
I've linked to articles which you conveniently ignore. It should also be noted there has never been a claim the impacts do not happen, this is merely a position held by those who are unable to use reason. http://benthamope...-185.pdf
And using the same circular reasoning people insist water erosion caused these structures (Valles Marineris particularly), without the presence of liquid water (or the possibility thereof), without evidence of a primary channel, without evidence of the eroded material, without a delta or outflow, and this list goes on and on...If you can magically suppose a bygone era where liquid water existed where it cannot, then we too can suppose of a bygone era of planetary instability and changing orbits. The evidence is on our side.
3 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2015
but you provide no substantive, quantitative analysis of the conditions necessary to create a supposed quantity of electrical charge carriers streaming into the Solar system from ALL directions at once

I've linked this before, conveniently ignored as usual.
These insights are based upon well founded EE properties that have built the modern society in which we live.
no means by which those carriers are to be accelerated - against the outstreaming solar wind and outwardly-spiralling solar magnetic field

You're applying your own theoretical presumptions on how you expect these processes to happen, in direct opposition to decades of laboratory research which show otherwise.
to the article itself: good work being done here. Patient, careful design of experimental methods and numerical analyses

There is no experiment, just application of theoretical belief.
3 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2015
So, show us how these bodies would arrive at such a condition in the first place.

Let's take the inner rocky planets as an example, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. If they are really "substantially neutral bodies", why is there such a variety of EM fields/atmospheres? What exactly does "substantially neutral bodies" mean?

to become so highly charged - the one positive and the other negative - that discharges are to occur between them?

"High" charges are not needed, just differently charged. And they need not be one positive and one negative, they could be +++/+ and there would still be an equalization discharge between them. You're letting your presumptions run wild.

3 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2015
Show us how the charge difference would be sustained, over sufficient time, as the one body "blasts" the other with electrical charges directed in such a way as to carve out all the observed structures like the lunar craters.

The discharge is the mechanism to equalize the difference between the two bodies, just as when you reach for your doorknob. And the time frame is nearly instantaneous on the small scale, scaled up to planetary size it may take hours or days or longer to equalize the differential. And this discharge will occur at a perpendicular perspective to the surface, isn't it convenient that nearly every crater has this characteristic?

Not rhetoric; numbers:

Math is not physics, it is merely an ancillary tool. Decades of research of laboratory plasmas show that very rarely do plasmas follow the rules set forth by mathematicians. If this were not true we'd be reveling in the magnificence of a fusion powered society.
3 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2015
Whereas, at the core of the Sun, the temperatures and densities - and hence range of kinetic energies - afforded by the gravitational pressure exerted by the overlaying material are sufficient in themselves to permit proton-proton reactions.

Theoretically! You have any experiments to support this?
it just happens.

Oh, Okay. That sounds so physicsy. Shit happens!

that their energies are "smeared out" into the essentially black-body radiation which we DO see emerging from the sun.

And what about the physics of black-body radiation? Pure unadulterated bollocks! Over a hundred years of misused physics and equations from the maths first crowd.

3 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2015
...well founded EE properties that have built the modern society in which we live
So we have the neighbourhood electricians to thank for our modern society? A typically skewed and egocentric EU version of history - self-aggrandizement run riot!

Take away Volta, Ohm, Joule, Coulomb, Faraday, Tesla, Hertz, Marconi, Maxwell, Edison, electricity, e motors, wifi, and just about every other modern convenience from the auto, to flight, toasters, telephones, TV's, the internet, and the computer you're staring at and what do you have? Nada, no modern society. Without electricity there is no modern society as we know it, as such your statement shows what a complete and utter moron you really are.
3 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2015
Well, that's what the space probes sent to these bodies are trying to find out.

Er, okay. And that is relevant because....
Scientists don't just sit on their lazy arses like the EU
Safire, testable experimentation on the Electric Sun and Electric Comets.
nor do they spit rhetoric and vitriol at anybody who doesn't agree with them.

Clearly you are no scientist, by your own reasoning!
How many EU spacecraft are there so far?
Wow, I think new terminology to describe your stupidity need be invented to fully explain how truly moronic this statement is.
the spacecraft have found no evidence at all to support the wild "charged planetary body"
Willful ignorance doesn't change the facts.
3 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2015
I gave up when he got to 7:26

So, you admit to willful ignorance.
"lattice of the photosphere" of the Sun, and that the surface "must be condensed matter".
He's pointing out how the Sun does not have the characteristics required by the parameters of the black body equations.
He goes on to say that the sun's surface "can produce X-rays" which "manifests temperatures and energies in the millions of degrees"...The poor thunderdolt is confusing

Once again, willful ignorance does not change the facts.
his belief that satellite measurements of the Cosmic Microwave Background were due to a glow from the Earth's oceans.

First, his comments were directed at data collected from Earth based sensors, the basis of his arguments regarding WMAP is different.
Second, who in the world would think that water would absorb/emit Mw radiation?

You're very good at misinformation.

3 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2015
Here's a pretty good denouncement of Robitaille's claims re black body radiation:

Nice blog...from said blog;
"He's missed the simple point that a perfect blackbody is from the outset only a theoretical idealization"

No, that's exactly his point! Theoretical idealization. All of the equations of which are derived from the pre-determined parameters set forth by the theoretically idealized thought experiment.

BTW, clearly the blog site is devoid of scientists, because as you say of the scientists;
nor do they spit rhetoric and vitriol at anybody who doesn't agree with them.

Whereas this blog is nothing but...
1 / 5 (2) Dec 06, 2015
Everyone loves rainbows until a star aims one at your planet.
1 / 5 (5) Dec 06, 2015
Hi FineStructureConstant, cantdrive. :)

I have over the years urged everyone to work towards constructive science/humanity discourse based on objective reality rather than personal/political/professional/amateur 'feuds' employing 'tactics' of ridicule/insults and obviously untenable claims/flawed logics.

So I suggest you BOTH immediately acknowledge there have been SOME claims from BOTH 'sides' which are untenable at present; then move on in cordial/constructive discourse without constantly blaming each other's 'side' for making such claims etc.

Better to NOW agree on and stick to what you BOTH CAN agree are scientifically known 'facts', 'tenable claims'; and leave out all those distracting allusions/accusations etc which NEITHER 'side' can really justify beyond reasonable doubt since current mainstream/alternative theory/knowledge is still incomplete.

I offer some 'facts' for consideration in your discussion re charged particle 'flows' in solar system...

1 / 5 (4) Dec 06, 2015
[...cont] @ FineStructureConstant, cantdrive.

Remember: charged particles CAN move/flow/spiral inward and outward from any body generating a magnetic field pattern ultimately 'anchored' on that body; be it its main 'dipolar' pattern/poles or its 'omnipolar' pattern/sub-main magnetic fields/swirls over a body such as the sun with its distributed plasma dynamics/processes producing all sorts/scales of 'flows/jets' of charged particles and accompanying turbulent/transient magnetic fields such as produce 'plasmoid' events within and on the solar plasma distribution (last year, a discussion re 'plasmoids in sun' agreed that these features do arise in sun and produce all sorts of flows and jets etc of charged particles). Also, as the free space charged particle content CAN flow along/around magnetic field lines, then certain amount of charged particles can logically flow inwards TOWARDS, and down into the sun, via its mag-field lines. Discuss (politely please!). Cheers both. :)
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (6) Dec 07, 2015
When your beloved astrophysicists (which you guys defend like pious acolytes) figure out the basics of plasma physics you may have a leg to stand on
cantREAD, but can TROLL
you've been making this claim for YEARS, but you've been debunked every time you try to post this crap
astrophysicists learn plasma physics, this is proven:

your engineers do NOT learn what astrophysicists do, however
this was proven to you multiple times:

you have the same credibility in science as verkle
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (6) Dec 07, 2015
I've linked to articles which you conveniently ignore
articles are not studies
I've linked this before, conveniently ignored as usual
linking to a known PSEUDOSCIENCE site to substantiate your claim is like saying "the faeries told me it's real... trust me"

... if you can't validate your claims with reputable peer reviewed studies, then you are simply promoting a religious belief, NOT SCIENCE

original sources and peer reviewed journals are the best means of proving something WRT science... and the whole reason you can't actually provide them is because your own links/eu beliefs do NOT conform to the scientific method

or don't you get that already?

just because you want it to be true doesn't mean it is
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (6) Dec 07, 2015
@cd cont'd
The discharge is the mechanism to equalize the difference between the two bodies, just as when you reach for your doorknob
you said this about cassini
you said this about shoemaker-levy9
you said this about the moon, grand canyon and more...

when this happens, and it is violent enough to "carve craters", there is evidence left behind that can be measured and studied (PROTIP- there isn't any)

it is also something that can be SEEN as well as measured, especially in our own solar system and interaction with the moon (PROTIP- still no evidence for it)

so, repeating this claim, like the astrophysicists claims above, is nothing more than rote regurgitation of dogma for the sake of your fanatical belief system

you are simply promoting a "false claim" (means: chronic lying)

Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (6) Dec 07, 2015
@cd cont'd
Without electricity there is no modern society as we know it, as such your statement shows what a complete and utter moron you really are
NONE of your comment made any sense in light of physics or reality. in fact, the only thing you can truthfully say is that electricity is important to modern society... you can't say that it is the driving force of the universe because we use it to power a toaster or run air conditioning... that is moronic at best, and just plain delusional
Electric Sun and Electric Comets
this is completely DEBUNKED, and you can read just SOME of that debunking here:

but you already know will only post some derogatory ad hominem attack on Thompson because (yup- you guessed it) you don't have any evidence

in all your links, and all your claims... you have NO evidence
not one reputable shred of ANY evidence
all you have is fanaticism

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.