From bright flare ribbons to coronal rain, high-resolution images capture a solar flare as it unfolds

April 19, 2016 by Tracey Regan, New Jersey Institute of Technology
The impulsive phase of the solar flare, in which most energy is released. Credit: NJIT

Scientists at NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) have captured unprecedented images of a recent solar flare, including bright flare ribbons seen crossing a sunspot followed by "coronal rain," plasma that condenses in the cooling phase shortly after the flare, showering the visible surface of the Sun where it lands in brilliant explosions.

The new images provide insights into one of the central puzzles of solar physics - how energy is transferred from one region of the Sun to another during and after a solar flare, an explosive release of magnetic energy responsible for space weather.

"We can now observe in very fine detail how energy is transported in solar flares, in this case from the corona where it has been stored to the lower chromosphere tens of thousands of miles below it, where most of the energy is finally converted into heat and radiated away," said Ju Jing, a research professor in NJIT's Department of Physics and the lead author of the study, "Unprecedented Fine Structure of a Solar Flare Revealed by the 1.6?m New Solar Telescope," published this week in Scientific Reports, a journal affiliated with the Nature group of publications.

Ju noted that while electron beams are traditionally seen as the major agent for transporting flare energy, the new observations provide novel information on the spatial scale of the energy transport.

Dale Gary, a distinguished professor of physics at NJIT and a co-author of the study, described the images as "the highest-resolution observations of this kind of activity we've had before."

"What is particularly interesting is that these bright areas of impact are so small in size that they have been present, but overlooked in previous observations with lower resolution," he added.

Captured by NJIT's 1.6 meter New Solar Telescope (NST) during a solar flare on June 22, 2015, the images of coronal rain are among a series of recent pictures captured by the NST providing scientists new insights into the complex dynamics of the Sun's multi-layered atmosphere and the massive eruptions on the star's surface.

NST's high-resolution observations have led to new information in particular on all phases of , including the instability of magnetic flux tubes that can trigger flares, the behavior of the bright flare ribbons that occur in the initial phase of flares, and new observations by Ju and her colleagues of the cooling phase.

"Ever since a solar flare was first detected by Carrington and Hodgson in 1859, this spectacular phenomenon of solar activity has been a subject of intense research and has served as a natural laboratory for understanding the physical processes of transient release throughout the universe," Ju noted in her recent paper.

The newly revealed solar phenomena will lead, the researchers hope, to a better understanding of their impact on Earth.

"Our measurements bridge the gap between models and observations, while also opening interesting avenues of future investigation," Ju said. "With large, ground-based telescopes, will we will be able to measure, for example, these features on the Sun's surface down to their fundamental spatial scale? We look forward to further investigation coupled with theoretical modeling to fully understand what we have observed."

Explore further: Image: NASA's SDO captures mid-level solar flare

More information: Ju Jing et al. Unprecedented Fine Structure of a Solar Flare Revealed by the 1.6 m New Solar Telescope, Scientific Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1038/srep24319

Related Stories

Image: NASA's SDO captures mid-level solar flare

April 19, 2016

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 8:29 pm EDT on April 17, 2016. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. ...

Recommended for you

Ancient meteorite tells tales of Mars topography

May 24, 2018

By looking at an ancient Martian meteorite that landed in the Sahara Desert, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists and collaborators have determined how and when the red planet's crustal topographic and ...

Drilling success: Curiosity is collecting Mars rocks

May 23, 2018

Engineers working with NASA's Curiosity Mars rover have been hard at work testing a new way for the rover to drill rocks and extract powder from them. This past weekend, that effort produced the first drilled sample on Mars ...

Rosetta unravels formation of sunrise jets

May 23, 2018

The atmosphere of Rosetta's comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is far from homogeneous. In addition to sudden outbursts of gas and dust, daily recurring phenomena at sunrise can be observed. In these, evaporating gas and entrained ...

New study details geological process behind Titan's dunes

May 23, 2018

Titan's windswept dunes may sprawl millions of more kilometers than previously thought and were likely formed by geological processes similar to those on Earth, according to a new study. The new findings could help scientists ...

6 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

cantdrive85
2 / 5 (4) Apr 20, 2016
Even with unprecedented resolution, "magnetic reconnection is pseudoscience."
Captain Stumpy
3.5 / 5 (6) Apr 20, 2016
Even with unprecedented resolution, "magnetic reconnection is pseudoscience."
@cd
repeating a lie doesn't make it more true
here is actual science and proof
it's engineers and physicists (various kinds) and evidence based with links references. second link is the best. if it dosen't show a hyperlink, copy/paste or serach http://www.pppl.gov for "reconnection":
http://www.pppl.gov/about/learn-more/magnetic-reconnection

http://www.pppl.gov/search/node/reconnection

of course, if you want to learn about real science, you can use this link:
http://ocw.mit.ed...ophysics

it's free and anyone can learn real physics rather than proselytize pseudoscientific cult dogma like the eu
Hyperfuzzy
not rated yet Apr 21, 2016
Don't get ahead of the facts; for now, it's only meta-physics.
Hyperfuzzy
1 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2016
We have yet to see ANY of you EU prestidigitators actually come up with any useful science.

Of course, we already know you can't actually practice what you preach. You're all of you so filled to the gills with super-heated holy-shit vapour, and no more capable of extending the body of scientific knowledge than a very dead horse. Which is what you keep flogging, to no effect whatsoever.

It takes all sorts...

I don't get this comment.
Maggnus
5 / 5 (2) Apr 23, 2016
We have yet to see ANY of you EU prestidigitators actually come up with any useful science.

Of course, we already know you can't actually practice what you preach. You're all of you so filled to the gills with super-heated holy-shit vapour, and no more capable of extending the body of scientific knowledge than a very dead horse. Which is what you keep flogging, to no effect whatsoever.

It takes all sorts...

I don't get this comment.


He is saying that EU is bullshit and the acolytes that promote it here are wasting our time.
Hyperfuzzy
not rated yet Apr 23, 2016
Well then, the calculation of a causal effect would be questionable. First we must decide upon states of matter using only two particles. But ...

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.