NASA is investigating a massive multi-stage solar blast that could leave clues that help scientists solve the ancient mystery of the causes of these powerful and unpredictable eruptions on the Sun.
By better understanding the fundamental physics of solar flares, scientists could better predict flares that cause dangerous space weather conditions on Earth.
The explosion analyzed by NASA It contained components of three different types of solar flares that generally occur separately, making it the first time such an event has been reported. Having all three types of eruptions together in one event provides scientists with something of a Solar Rosetta Stone, allowing them to translate what they know about each type of solar flare to understand other types and discover an underlying mechanism that could explain all types of solar flares.
“This event is a missing link, where we can see all these aspects of different types of eruptions in one neat little package.”said Emily Mason, lead author of the new study and a solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. Maryland. “It drives home the point that these eruptions are caused by the same mechanism, but on different scales. “
Flares on the Sun generally occur in one of three ways: a coronal mass ejection, jet, or partial eruption.
Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and jets are explosive eruptions that spew energy and particles into space, but they look very different. As the jets erupt as narrow columns of solar material, the CMEs form huge bubbles that expand, pushed and sculpted by the Sun’s magnetic fields. Partial eruptions, on the other hand, begin to rise from the surface but do not evoke enough energy to leave the Sun, so most of the material falls back on the solar surface.
In this eruption, observed with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and the European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory on March 12 and 13, 2016, The scientists saw the ejection of a hot layer of solar material onto a magnetically active region on the Sun’s surface.
The ejection was too large to be a jet, but too narrow to be a CME. Within half an hour, a second cooler layer of material on the surface also began to erupt from the same location, but eventually fell back as a partial eruption. Seeing an eruption with jet characteristics and CMEs tells scientists that they are likely caused by a singular mechanism.
With this new understanding, scientists can apply what they know about airplanes to CMEs. The event also tells scientists that partial eruptions occur on the same spectrum, but they find a yet unknown limiter that restricts their energy and doesn’t allow them to leave the Sun.
Understanding the mechanism behind these events, especially CMEs, is helpful. vitally important in predicting when a major eruption could cause disruptions on Earth. CMEs, in particular, release large clouds of high-energy charged particles and magnetic fields that flow through the solar system and can result in space weather: a storm of high-energy, active particles that can be dangerous to astronauts and technology in space and, in extreme cases, utility networks on Earth.
By modeling the new Rosetta eruption and others discovered since then, scientists hope to discover which root mechanism causes solar flares and determines their characteristics. As a last resort, Finding a trigger could allow scientists to predict when a major eruption could threaten Earth and Mars several hours in advance, allowing enough time for astronauts and spacecraft operators to take precautionary measures.