NASA watches the Sun put a stop to its own eruption

August 11, 2017 by Lina Tran

On Sept. 30, 2014, multiple NASA observatories watched what appeared to be the beginnings of a solar eruption. A filament—a serpentine structure consisting of dense solar material and often associated with solar eruptions—rose from the surface, gaining energy and speed as it soared. But instead of erupting from the Sun, the filament collapsed, shredded to pieces by invisible magnetic forces.

Because scientists had so many instruments observing the event, they were able to track the entire event from beginning to end, and explain for the first time how the Sun's magnetic landscape terminated a . Their results are summarized in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal on July 10, 2017.

"Each component of our observations was very important," said Georgios Chintzoglou, lead author of the paper and a solar physicist at Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. "Remove one instrument, and you're basically blind. In solar physics, you need to have good coverage observing multiple temperatures—if you have them all, you can tell a nice story."

The study makes use of a wealth of data captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, JAXA/NASA's Hinode, and several ground-based telescopes in support of the launch of the NASA-funded VAULT2.0 sounding rocket. Together, these observatories watch the Sun in dozens of different wavelengths of light that reveal the Sun's surface and lower atmosphere, allowing scientists to track the from its onset up through the solar atmosphere—and ultimately understand why it faded away.

The day of the failed eruption, scientists pointed the VAULT2.0 sounding rocket—a sub-orbital rocket that flies for some 20 minutes, collecting data from above Earth's atmosphere for about five of those minutes—at an area of intense, complex magnetic activity on the Sun, called an active region. The team also collaborated with IRIS to focus its observations on the same region.

"We were expecting an eruption; this was the most active region on the Sun that day," said Angelos Vourlidas, an astrophysicist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, principal investigator of the VAULT2.0 project and co-author of the paper. "We saw the filament lifting with IRIS, but we didn't see it erupt in SDO or in the coronagraphs. That's how we knew it failed."

The Sun's landscape is controlled by magnetic forces, and the scientists deduced the filament must have met some magnetic boundary that prevented the unstable structure from erupting. They used these observations as input for a model of the Sun's magnetic environment. Much like scientists who use topographical data to study Earth, solar physicists map out the Sun's magnetic features, or topology, to understand how these forces guide solar activity.

Chintzoglou and his colleagues developed a model that identified locations on the Sun where the magnetic field was especially compressed, since rapid releases of energy—such as those they observed when the filament collapsed—are more likely to occur where magnetic field lines are strongly distorted.

Watch the video to view the observations and models that enabled scientists to track the failed solar eruption from its onset up through the solar atmosphere -- and ultimately understand why it faded away. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein, producer

"We computed the Sun's magnetic environment by tracing millions of magnetic field lines and looking at how neighboring field lines connect and diverge," said Antonia Savcheva, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and co-author of the paper. "The amount of divergence gives us a measure of the topology."

Their model shows this topology shapes how solar structures evolve on the Sun's surface. Typically, when solar structures with opposite magnetic orientations collide, they explosively release magnetic energy, heating the atmosphere with a flare and erupting into space as a coronal mass ejection—a massive cloud of solar material and magnetic fields.

But on the day of the Sept. 2014 near-eruption, the model indicated the filament instead pushed up against a complex magnetic structure, shaped like two igloos smashed against each other. This invisible boundary, called a hyperbolic flux tube, was the result of a collision of two bipolar regions on the sun's surface—a nexus of four alternating and opposing magnetic fields ripe for , a dynamic process that can explosively release great amounts of stored energy.

"The hyperbolic flux tube breaks the filament's and reconnects them with those of the ambient Sun, so that the filament's magnetic energy is stripped away," Chintzoglou said.

This structure eats away at the filament like a log grinder, spraying chips of solar material and preventing eruption. As the filament waned, the model demonstrates heat and energy were released into the solar atmosphere, matching the initial observations. The simulated reconnection also supports the observations of bright flaring loops where the hyperbolic flux tube and filament met—evidence for magnetic reconnection.

While scientists have speculated such a process exists, it wasn't until they serendipitously had multiple observations of such an event that they were able to explain how a magnetic boundary on the Sun is capable of halting an eruption, stripping a of energy until it's too weak to erupt.

"This result would have been impossible without the coordination of NASA's solar fleet in support of our rocket launch," Vourlidas said.

This study indicates the Sun's magnetic topology plays an important role in whether or not an eruption can burst from the Sun. These eruptions can create space weather effects around Earth.

"Most research has gone into how topology helps eruptions escape," Chintzoglou said. "But this tells us that apart from the eruption mechanism, we also need to consider what the nascent structure encounters in the beginning, and how it might be stopped."

Explore further: Image: NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory watches a sunspot

More information: Georgios Chintzoglou et al. Magnetic Flux Rope Shredding By a Hyperbolic Flux Tube: The Detrimental Effects of Magnetic Topology on Solar Eruptions, The Astrophysical Journal (2017). DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aa77b2

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12 comments

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katesisco
1 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2017
I was thinking that the second magnetic field of the sun came into play. There is no information as to whether or not this 'crush structure' is originated from deep in the sun or shallow.
SlartiBartfast
3.9 / 5 (7) Aug 11, 2017
Cue the EU zealots in 3...2...1...
Benni
1 / 5 (7) Aug 12, 2017
Ewwwww, think of the warming that will create within the entire solar system.

Oooppps I forgot, except for on planet Earth where the only warming effects are manmade, mostly caused by by the excessive expletives of Al Gore's congregants within the Church of the Holy Hockey Stick.
cantdrive85
1.6 / 5 (7) Aug 12, 2017
"Magnetic reconnection is pseudoscience" Hannes Alfven

As is much of the description above. The magnetic topology is a result of the electric currents which creates the magnetic fields. And yet, not a single reference to said currents.
Captain Stumpy
4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 12, 2017
@nazi sympathizing eu pseudoscience cult idiot
"Magnetic reconnection is pseudoscience" Hannes Alfven
outdated quote that is falsified by experimental evidence, like: The PPPL Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX) which was built to study a fundamental plasma process in a controlled laboratory environment
Researchers have run this and similar experiments — called "shots" — more than 100,000 times since 1995 and amassed volumes of data and numerous scientific papers
http://www.pppl.g...HEET.pdf

this is also validated by every other plasma physics lab in the world
therefore it is scientific fact, and you, hannes and the eu cult are wrong
And yet, not a single reference to said currents
so it doesn't mention your chosen holy word (and you don't understand it)
it also didn't mention jesus or zeus
so what?

facts are facts, regardless of your belief in them

another epic eu fail
RealityCheck
1 / 5 (2) Aug 12, 2017
@cantdrive85.
The magnetic topology is a result of the electric currents which creates the magnetic fields. And yet, not a single reference to said currents.
Actually they 'hid' references to same in terminology such as:
"filaments"
and
"downflows of cool plasma"
and
"Magnetic Flux Rope (MFR)-like structure"
...all of 'features' which involve currents of plasma/ions/electrons which twist themselves much as the plasma/electron currents similarly observable as in-spiraling, self-reinforcing and self-compressing 'flows' which converge and twist into explosive/unstable PLASMOIDS involving the twisted magnetic fields components which the currents created in the first instance.

So, cantdrive, your comment is not totally correct; although it *is easy* to miss the allusions to plasma/electron/ion 'currents' in such 'papers' where said allusions are well 'hidden' (intentionally or innocently) by jargon effectively relegating "currents" to mere 'incidentals'.
jonesdave
5 / 5 (5) Aug 14, 2017
"Magnetic reconnection is pseudoscience" Hannes Alfven

As is much of the description above. The magnetic topology is a result of the electric currents which creates the magnetic fields. And yet, not a single reference to said currents.


Hmmm. and then we have Alfven's old colleague, friend and co-author, saying this, 12 years after the death of Alfven:

In fact, the most interesting plasma physics occurs precisely where and because this equation is not satisfied, such as the auroral acceleration region, ***magnetic field reconnection***, turbulence, shocks, and many wave modes.


My emphasis.

On the Concept of Moving Magnetic Field Lines (2007)
Falthammar, C-G & Mozer, F. S.
http://onlinelibr...0002/pdf
jonesdave
5 / 5 (3) Aug 14, 2017
The magnetic topology is a result of the electric currents which creates the magnetic fields. And yet, not a single reference to said currents.


Why would there be? As RC pointed out, this is a paper on what is happening to the flare due to MAGNETIC FIELDS. It is not Solar Science 101 for the hard of thinking. It is aimed at PEERS. It is assumed in such papers that the knowledge of where the fields come from is already known. It is not a paper for the general public, or the idiots at thunderdolts, where every single process within the Sun, that leads to the magnetic fields, needs to be explained. It'd be like discussing tidal ranges in the Earths seas, without pointing out that tides are caused by the Moon. Assumed knowledge, no need to repeat it.

cantdrive85
1 / 5 (2) Aug 15, 2017
In fact, the most interesting plasma physics occurs precisely where and because this equation is not satisfied, such as the auroral acceleration region, ***magnetic field reconnection***, turbulence, shocks, and many wave modes.


My emphasis.

On the Concept of Moving Magnetic Field Lines (2007)
Falthammar, C-G & Mozer, F. S.
http://onlinelibr...0002/pdf

Nice cherry pick, did yoy happen to read the whole paper where he agrees with Alfven's claims? Fron linked paper;
"W. Belcher discussed the concept of magnetic field line motion as a useful tool in teaching electromagnetic theory in an article in Eos [Belcher, 2005]. However, there are some important limitations and pitfalls to this concept, none of which is mentioned in the article by Belcher..."
con't
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (2) Aug 15, 2017
"....The purpose of these comments is to urge caution in using the moving magnetic field line construct becaus e two kinds of problems have arisen from its misuse. The first kind of problem is that the construct of moving field lines is sometimes used to produce the incorrect magnetic field evolution in cases where equation (2) is not satisfied."
He goes on;
"The second concern is that the construct of moving field lines is sometimes confused with the concept of moving flux tubes....This conclusion is wrong for two reasons. First, it is meaningless to assert that a field line that was at A is now at B, becaus e there is no way to identify or distinguish one magnetic field line from another. Second, the concept of moving magnetic field lines is reasonable if it is used only for visualizing
the temporal evolution of the magnetic field, and then, only if equation (2) is satisfied..."
So it would seem as if Falthammar is in full agreement with Alfven, contrary to your lies...
Captain Stumpy
1 / 5 (1) Aug 15, 2017
@nazi sympathizing idiot eu pseudoscience cult peon
So it would seem as if Falthammar is in full agreement with Alfven
1- it would seem like this only to someone attempting to ignore the elephant in the room because there is a hair on his chair

2- what about the very specific part where he acknowledges ***magnetic field reconnection*** (emphasis Jonesdave, but relevant)?

more importantly, if he directly supports your cult, why then is he making claims of support for what you consider pseudoscience?

by definition, that is heresy in a religion especially when you specifically state it as being pseudoscience or wrong
(the eu is religion, considering they can't actually provide any evidence that is reputable, let alone factual, predictive, etc)

the conclusion is that you are specifically cherrypicking data from the study while ignoring the overall (or any) conclusions in order to validate your beliefs

that is religion in a NUTshell, emphasis intentional

Dingbone
not rated yet Aug 17, 2017
The Sun looks like the black hole masked as star.

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