Astronomers Confirm the Existence of Magnetic Waves in the Suns Photosphere – Universe Today

Posted: June 11, 2021 at 12:09 pm

For the first time astronomers have observed waves of magnetic energy, known as Alfvn waves, in the photosphere of the sun. This discovery may help explain why the solar corona is so much hotter than the surface.

The sun is made of plasma, and like any plasma it should support Alfvn waves. These are waves in a plasma where the ions move in response to tension from a magnetic field. First predicted over 50 years ago, astronomers had until now had been unable to see them in the sun. But recent observations of the suns photosphere the lowest layer of its atmosphere and the region that releases the light that we can see have finally found them.

Magnetic fields in the sun can bundle together, forming long structures called flux tubes. These flux tubes can drive the formation of Alfvn waves. A team of researchers, led by Dr. Marco Stangalini at Italian Space Agency (ASI,Italy) with scientists from seven other research institutes and universities, including Queen Marys Dr. David Tsiklauri and Ph.D. student Callum Boocock, used the European Space Agencys IBIS to carefully monitor the suns photosphere.

Despite previous claims, Alfvn waves had never conclusively been found on the sun before.

The researchers validated their observations with the aid of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations, which are computer simulations of the complex plasma physics operating at the suns surface.

Callum Boocock, a Ph.D. student at Queen Marys School of Physics and Astronomy, said: The observations of torsional Alfven waves made by Marco and his team were remarkably similar to the behavior seen in our MHD simulations, demonstrating the importance of these simulations for discovering and explaining wave generation mechanisms.

The finding provides a crucial step to understanding why the outer solar atmosphere, the corona, has a temperature a million degrees hotter than the surface. Something much be transporting energy from the photosphere to the corona, and these Alfvn waves may be the culprit.

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Astronomers Confirm the Existence of Magnetic Waves in the Suns Photosphere - Universe Today

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