Knowing how dangerous solar flares and geomagnetic storms can be, scientists are trying to better understand how these phenomena form and evolve.
Now, researchers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology have snapped incredible images of a recent solar flare. The high-resolution photos include a solar spot, bright flare "ribbons," and even coronal rain – cooler plasma from the solar corona condensing after the flare and raining down on the photosphere.
These images will give solar astronomers insight into how energy is transferred in the outer regions of the Sun. The fact that the corona is much hotter than the surface of the Sun remains one of the biggest mysteries of solar physics.
"We can now observe in very fine detail how energy is transported in solar flares, in this case from the corona where it has been stored to the lower chromosphere tens of thousands of miles below it, where most of the energy is finally converted into heat and radiated away,” said Professor Ju Jing, lead author of the study, in a statement.
On the left, a new image of coronal rain, with corresponding data readings. NJIT
In the paper, published in Scientific Reports, the team report that they were able to see how the flare ribbons were propagating through the surface, as well as image how coronal rain creates brilliant explosions as it hits the Sun’s surface.
“What is particularly interesting is that these bright areas of impact are so small in size that they have been present, but overlooked in previous observations with lower resolution,” said Professor Dale Gary, co-author of the study. He added that they were the highest-resolution observations of this sort of activity.
Above, the coronal rain in action. NJIT
The observations were conducted with the 1.6-meter (5.2-foot) New Solar Telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory. The researchers hope that the high-resolution imaging of the Sun will lead to a better understanding of how space weather develops.
“Our measurements bridge the gap between models and observations, while also opening interesting avenues of future investigation,” Ju added. “With large, ground-based telescopes, we will be able to measure, for example, these features on the Sun’s surface down to their fundamental spatial scale. We look forward to further investigation coupled with theoretical modeling to fully understand what we have observed.”