Wave power can drive Sun’s intense heat - Multimedia Gallery

July 27, 2011

Multimedia Gallery

 

A new study sheds light on why the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, is more than 20 times hotter than its surface. The NCAR-led research on the role of oscillations in the corona may bring scientists a step closer to understanding the solar cycle and the Sun’s impacts on Earth. The study uses satellite observations to reveal that magnetic oscillations carrying energy from the Sun’s surface into its corona are far more vigorous than previously thought. The oscillations, called Alfvén waves, are energetic enough to heat the corona and drive the solar wind, a stream of charged particles ejected from the Sun that affects the entire solar system.

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Video


Movie 1: Three views of an active region on the Sun

(repeating 2-second loop)
Center: A satellite-derived visualization looking down on a layer of the Sun's atmosphere, or corona, at which the temperature is 1 million degrees kelvin (1MK, or 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit). The area shown measures about 500,000 by 500,000 kilometers. The curved lines are coronal loops, most likely composed of hot plasma flowing along magnetic field lines. Some coronal loops are so long that their tops extend beyond the field of view.
Left: The same layer, with the data reprocessed to highlight differences in brightness on the coronal loops over time. The narrow, fast-moving features are high-speed plasma jets, or spicules, which pump hot gas up from the cool surface into the corona at over 62 miles per second (100 kilometers per second).
Right: The data have been "unsharp masked" to highlight the side-to-side motion of Alfvén waves as they cause the spicules to wiggle, transporting energy higher up into the corona. The two boxes (dashed white lines) highlight the areas shown in closeup in Movies 2 and 3, below. (Visualizations by Scott McIntosh, NCAR, of data from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, a package of instruments aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. ©UCAR. This video is freely available for media and nonprofit use.)

 

 

 
Movie 2: Alfvén waves in motion (closeup of white box, upper left)

(repeating 2-second loop)
Researchers pushed the resolution capabilities of the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly's telescope to the limit. These closeups of 2 seconds of data (looped repeatedly) zoom in on an area spanning about 27,000 by 27,000 miles (43,500 by 43,500 km), the same area highlighted by the white box at upper left in the righthand panel of Movie 1. The resulting grainy images provide the first-ever view of data confirming the role of Alfvén waves in transporting a significant amount of energy through the corona. The waves cause high-speed jets of hot material associated with spicules to sway, or wiggle side to side. These new satellite observations have revealed that the wiggling waves are over a hundred times stronger than previously measured, with amplitudes on the order of 12 miles per second (20 km/sec)—enough to heat the Sun’s outer atmosphere to over a million degrees and drive the solar wind. (Visualizations by Scott McIntosh, NCAR, of data from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, a package of instruments aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. ©UCAR. This video is freely available for media and nonprofit use.)

 

 

 
Movie 3:
Alfvén waves in motion (closeup of white box, lower left)

(repeating 2-second loop)
A closeup of the area highlighted by the white box at lower left of the righthand panel in Movie 1. The closeup region spans about 27,000 by 27,000 miles (43,500 by 43,500 kilometers). The white dashed lines superimposed on the data give a sense of scale for the motion of Alfvén waves as they transport a significant amount of energy through the Sun's corona. The waves cause high-speed jets of hot material associated with spicules to sway, or wiggle side to side. These new satellite observations have revealed that the wiggling waves are over a hundred times stronger than previously measured, with amplitudes on the order of 12 miles per second (20 km/sec)—enough to heat the Sun’s outer atmosphere to over a million degrees and drive the solar wind. (Visualization by Scott McIntosh, NCAR, of data from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, a package of instruments aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. ©UCAR. This video is freely available for media and nonprofit use.)

 

 

 


Still Images

An active region on the Sun, showing coronal loops
A satellite-derived image, looking down on a layer of the Sun's atmosphere, or corona, at which the temperature is 1 million degrees kelvin (1MK, or 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit). In this cropped, still image from Movie 1, the curved lines are coronal loops, most likely composed of hot plasma flowing along magnetic field lines. Some coronal loops are so long that their tops extend beyond the field of view. (Visualization by Scott McIntosh, NCAR, of data from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, a package of instruments aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. ©UCAR. This image is freely available for media and nonprofit use.)

 

still from movie of wiggling energy waves on the Sun
Researchers pushed the resolution capabilities of the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly's telescope to the limit to see closeup views like this one, a still from Movie 2, which depicts a region measuring about 27,000 by 27,000 miles (43,500 by 43,500 kilometers). (Visualization by Scott McIntosh, NCAR, of data from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, a package of instruments aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. ©UCAR. This image is freely available for media and nonprofit use.)

 

portrait of Scott McIntosh at his computer
Scott McIntosh, NCAR scientist. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media and nonprofit use.)

 

 

*Media & nonprofit use of images: Except where otherwise indicated, media and nonprofit use permitted with credit as indicated above and compliance with UCAR's terms of use. Find more images in the UCAR Digital Image Library.

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