Sun's eruptions might all have same trigger

April 26, 2017, Durham University
One visible impact of solar eruptions is the Aurora, seen here from the International Space Station over Australia. Credit: NASA

Large and small scale solar eruptions might all be triggered by a single process, according to new research that leads to better understanding of the Sun's activity.

Researchers at Durham University, UK, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, USA, used 3D computer simulations to show a theoretical link between large and small scale eruptions that were previously thought to be driven by different processes.

They looked at the mechanism behind coronal jets - relatively small bursts of plasma (hot gas) from the Sun - and much larger-scale coronal mass ejections (CMEs), where giant clouds of plasma and magnetic field are blown into at high speed.

Both types of eruptions were known to involve snake-like filaments of dense plasma low in the Sun's atmosphere, but until now how they erupted at such vastly different scales was unclear.

The researchers discovered that the filaments in jets are triggered to erupt when the above them break and rejoin - a process known as magnetic reconnection.

The same process was previously known to explain many CMEs.

The strength and structure of the magnetic field around the filament determines the type of that occurs, the researchers said.

Their findings are published in the journal Nature.

Simulation showing the formation and eruption of a filament (yellow lines) in the jet simulation. Credit: Wyper, P./Nature

Understanding is important as their electromagnetic radiation can disrupt radio transmissions and satellite communications, and they can eject high-energy electrically charged particles that can potentially endanger astronauts.

CMEs also help create the spectacular light shows, or aurorae, at both of the Earth's magnetic poles, as charged particles accelerated by the CME collide with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen in Earth's atmosphere.

The new study provides theoretical support for previous observational research which suggested that coronal jets are caused in the same way as CMEs.

The Durham-led researchers said their latest findings covered all solar eruptions from the largest CMEs to the smallest coronal jets.

Lead author Dr Peter Wyper, Royal Astronomical Society Fellow, in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, Durham University, said: "It was previously thought that there were different drivers for the varying scales of eruptions from the Sun, but our research provides a theoretical universal model for this activity, which is very exciting.

"A greater understanding of solar eruptions at all scales could ultimately help in better predicting the Sun's activity.

"Large-scale , where huge amounts of solar plasma, radiation and high energy particles are being released, can influence the space around them, including the space near to Earth.

"They can interfere with satellite communications, for example, so it is beneficial for us to be able to understand and monitor this activity."

Solar eruptions of many sizes, including enormous coronal mass ejections (pictured), could be triggered by a single process. Credit: NASA/SDO

The research was funded by the Royal Astronomical Society and NASA. The computer simulations were carried out at NASA's Center for Climate Simulation.

The scientists call their proposed mechanism for how filaments lead to eruptions the breakout model, because of the way the stressed filament pushes relentlessly at - and ultimately breaks through - its magnetic restraints into space.

Co-author Dr Richard DeVore, a solar physicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said: "The breakout model unifies our picture of what's going on at the Sun.

"Within a unified context, we can advance understanding of how these eruptions are started, how to predict them, and how to better understand their consequences."

In future, the researchers plan to use further simulations to test their model for solar eruptions in different magnetic configurations, and to study how the swarms of high energy particles, which can affect satellites and astronauts, are launched into space by these events.

Confirming the theoretical mechanism will require high-resolution observations of the and plasma flows in the solar atmosphere, especially around the Sun's poles where many jets originate—data that is currently not available.

For now, scientists are looking to upcoming missions such as NASA's Solar Probe Plus and the joint European Space Agency/NASA Solar Orbiter, which will acquire novel measurements of the Sun's atmosphere and magnetic fields emanating from solar eruptions.

Explore further: New space weather model helps simulate magnetic structure of solar storms

More information: Peter F. Wyper et al, A universal model for solar eruptions, Nature (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nature22050

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11 comments

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Jeffhans1
1 / 5 (9) Apr 26, 2017
I was expecting this article to be about comet and asteroid remnants falling into the sun and releasing highly charged plasma. If the amount of dust falling into our atmosphere is along the lines of 60 tons per day, our sun should be getting significantly more than that. Anything with enough volatiles in it would cause the sun to erupt like magma when water is introduced.
Nik_2213
5 / 5 (7) Apr 26, 2017
Sorry, JH, SOHO etc have seen enough 'sun-grazers' to suggest it would take a really big whatsit for the Sun's processes to 'notice'. Most comets evaporate / sublime before they get close. IIRC, one (1) kicked off a 'modest' flare. Against that, if you dropped a juicy, 'first time around' Oort object into the Sun, I'd expect a CME. Just remember how small even they are compared to the size of the Sun...
691Boat
5 / 5 (7) Apr 26, 2017
I was expecting this article to be about comet and asteroid remnants falling into the sun and releasing highly charged plasma. If the amount of dust falling into our atmosphere is along the lines of 60 tons per day, our sun should be getting significantly more than that. Anything with enough volatiles in it would cause the sun to erupt like magma when water is introduced.

Even if that were true, the differences in scale between a comet and the sun would be so large that I doubt any comet could influence the sun in that way.
Why doesn't magma constantly explode in humid environments?
I am also pretty positive that an iceball would likely never actually make it to the surface of the sun to impact it anyways. that whole sublimation thing is a real kink in your idea.
691Boat
5 / 5 (3) Apr 26, 2017
@Nik:
I apparently had this article open before you posted, so didn't see your reply, but seems we are in agreement. haha!
Shootist
5 / 5 (3) Apr 26, 2017
I was expecting this article to be about comet and asteroid remnants falling into the sun and releasing highly charged plasma. If the amount of dust falling into our atmosphere is along the lines of 60 tons per day, our sun should be getting significantly more than that. Anything with enough volatiles in it would cause the sun to erupt like magma when water is introduced.


a drop of water the size of Saturn, maybe.

and "dust" would likely be blown away by the solar wind.
Da Schneib
3.6 / 5 (9) Apr 27, 2017
Amusing that real scientists have concluded that magnetic reconnection, persistently denied by the EUdiots, is the cause for all of these phenomena on different scales.

Watching these people get beaten down the same way as their heroes, the Troll Administration, is going to be gratifying. The longer one lies, the more likely one is to be caught. Sean Spacer is going to need therapy after being Donald Troll's mouthpiece for a year, and if we're lucky Donald Troll is going to need it too. And it will be national news in the US.
FrankTrades
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 27, 2017
I didn't know they encouraged political hogwash here!
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (6) Apr 27, 2017
When the politicians stop playing scientist, the scientists will happily go back to science. Until then, this political lying about science is going to continue to be vigorously opposed. Science is being attacked, and scientists are responding. Get over it.

In fact, the scientists have been a little slow. It's taken two or three decades for the scientists to finally start responding, but the big rock is rolling downhill now.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (2) Apr 29, 2017
Sun's eruptions might all have same trigger

Yep, exploding circuits.
Highly unlikely to be the pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo of magnetic reconnection, as it is pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo...
RealityCheck
1 / 5 (3) Apr 29, 2017
@FSC (@DS too if reading this).
The interplay between all the forces at work in the mid- and upper layers of the Sun, with gravity, plasma, convection, radiation pressure, magnetic fields within the sun, at its' surface, and the interplanetary magnetic field is proving to be an extremely hard nut to crack. But each investigation like this brings us a step closer to revealing the whole picture.
Agreed, FSC! Yes, 'hybrid phenomena' involving forces 'interplay' in feedback and 'messy' reinforcement/interference etc evolutions. I long pointed out (ask DS about that) the likely involvement of flux tubes/plasmoid 'jets' dynamics/effects in sun (in upper layers at least); which may explain the breaking' of magnetic structures/releases of much pent up plasma under enormus compression/pressures within the erstwhile magnetic 'containment tubes' structures. I long posited that such 'plasma focus/jets' events occur at MANY scales, hence supports above article's 'many scales' part.
jonesdave
4 / 5 (8) Apr 29, 2017
Sun's eruptions might all have same trigger

Yep, exploding circuits.
Highly unlikely to be the pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo of magnetic reconnection, as it is pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo...


And has been proven to exist both in the lab and in the wild. So that kind of kills your argument. Which isn't actually an argument - it is just rote repetition of crap you've read on a pseudoscience site.
You might want to familiarise yourself with a bloke called Falthammar. He certainly didn't think it was pseudoscience, as he showed in a number of papers. Here's one of them:

http://adsabs.har...89..731M

I'm betting that he knows far more about the subject matter than you, or the other EU idiots.

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