A team of scientists has, for the first time, used a single, cohesive computer model to simulate the entire life cycle of a solar flare: from the buildup of energy thousands of kilometers below the solar surface, to the emergence of tangled magnetic field lines, to the explosive release of energy in a brilliant flash.
The accomplishment, detailed in the journal Nature Astronomy, sets the stage for future solar models to realistically simulate the Sun's own weather as it unfolds in real time, including the appearance of roiling sunspots, which sometimes produce flares and coronal mass ejections. These eruptions can have widespread impacts on Earth, from disrupting power grids and communications networks, to damaging satellites and endangering astronauts.
Scientists - National - Center - Atmospheric - Research
Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory led the research. The comprehensive new simulation captures the formation of a solar flare in a more realistic way than previous efforts, and it includes the spectrum of light emissions known to be associated with flares.
"This work allows us to provide an explanation for why flares look like the way they do, not just at a single wavelength, but in visible wavelengths, in ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, and in X-rays," said Mark Cheung, a staff physicist at Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory and a visiting scholar at Stanford University. "We are explaining the many colors of solar flares."
Research - NASA - National - Science - Foundation
The research was funded largely by NASA and by the National Science Foundation, which is NCAR's sponsor.
For the new study, the scientists had to build a solar model that could stretch across multiple regions of the Sun, capturing the complex and unique physical behavior of each one.
Model - Part - Convection - Kilometers - Sun
The resulting model begins in the upper part of the convection zone—about 10,000 kilometers below the Sun's surface—rises through the solar surface,...
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