Saturday, June 25, 2011

'Magnetic Ropes' on the Sun Cause Solar Storms

I always enjoy hearing about new discoveries in space science. I especially enjoy it when we learn more about our Sun. AND I really really enjoy it when it's a discovery made by researchers from my old University and have met in the past.

On the left, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the magnetic rope as the thick looped structure extending above the edge of the sun. On the right, SDO observes as the surrounding cool magnetic field lines are pushed away by the intruding magnetic rope seen on the left. Both images are taken almost simultaneously (within three seconds of each other). [Credit: NASA and GMU]

George Mason University professor Jie Zhang and his graduate student Xin Cheng proved the existence of 'magnetic ropes' that cause solar storms. They used images from NASA Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) to solve this blank in the understanding of heliophysics (the physics of the Sun). They presented their findings

Here are press articles from GMU and Space.com that describe a bit about the discovery. Essentially, there is now an understanding of what causes solar storms, a twisting tangle of magnetic fields that can create an immense eruption. Though it was already believed that these ropes could lead to eruptions, this research confirms it.

With this now known, astronomers are a step closer to understanding and predicting solar storms. This will be of a great benefit to just about anyone who relies on electricity. Solar storms have the potential to knock out power grids for extended periods (perhaps years) and cause catastrophic damage.

This sort of solar research is essential for protecting infrastructure and communication around the globe. So, I am thankful for the intelligent work of these researchers and hopefully much more will come. The results of the study were reported at the American Astronomical Society Solar Physics Division Meeting, which is being held from June 12 to 16 at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.


[You may have noticed I haven't been as active lately. I've been a bit busy planning my 4th of July break, of which I'll likely be gone for a week. I'm looking at leaving for North Carolina's Outer Banks on the 30th. I'll probably make a couple scheduled posts. I have also been filling out job apps like it's my job. Seriously, there has to be a better way than filling in all the same info over and over again on every different website's application form. Oh well, it has gotta get done. Also, I am going to a friends wedding this weekend, so see you all on Monday. Hope you get to enjoy some sun and pleasant weather.]


19 comments:

Melanie said...

Great post!! Have a great weekend at the wedding!

The Dawg said...

Solar storms, eh? Well this is a good discovery!

Jay said...

amazing and have a great break!

HOODPHENOMENOM said...

Enjoy the wedding and come back soon !

Lost.in.Idaho said...

I always feel smarter when reading your posts. Is it bad you're turning me into an amateur astronomy whore?

braumaman said...

That's gorgeous.

Astronomy Pirate said...

@Idaho, not at all I hope. I think it's good to have an appreciation for the universe. And there must be plenty of clear skies in Idaho.

movie68 said...

Cool stuff. I hate filling out those apps to, then you have to take those horribly boring tests on some of them. Good luck on the job search.

Internet Catch Of The Day said...

Look forwards to more when you come back!

meandmythinkingcap said...

wow..wowsome

MRanthrope said...

enjoy your time off sir. I can't wait till I can get away from everything for a bit myself.

Sarahberry74 said...

Good luck on finding a job! Following

Phil S. said...

Appreciate the universe? Pssht. What's it done for me lately? :D

So are you telling us that now might be the time to seriously invest in solar energy? Or get in good with the people that can predict the solar storms? (I guess they are not related.)

M Pax said...

Fascinating post.

Enjoy your trip. I've spent some summers in the Outer Banks. Been to Atlantic Beach and ... dang can't remember the other one. South of Hatteras.

Kicking Rocks said...

there is soo much out there left to be discovered!

Astronomy Pirate said...

@Phil S. Not much to do with solar energy, but probably investing in companies that will be building the capacitors and transformers to upgrade the existing power grids is a good idea.

@M Pax, Ocracoke probably, that's where I am camping.

Liss said...

Wonderful! Thank you for sharing this piece of research.

Atley said...

how weird! When I take a magnet and put a flame to it it looses its magnetic pull. but the sun is a flame and has huge magnetic rings? or something! what a crazy thought!

Astronomy Pirate said...

Well, Atley, flames produce a charge as weird as that concept is. It's taken a long time to understand the difference in effects of small plasma events like flames and large ones like the Sun. I can't claim to be an expert on it either, I just know I've heard of it. The incredible uplifting motion of all these hot particles in the Sun does create an electric charge. And in fact, the effects of a small flame on a magnet are similar to the effects of the Sun's dominance. Loose electrons flying around make a huge impact.

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