Large explosions of solar radiation can damage ground infrastructure
Guessing in space is a game of divination. Predictions of sunburn are generally based on the activity observed above the sun without taking into account the specific processes behind the blasts.
However, a new method will help predict the violent explosion of radiation known as solar flares based on the physics behind them, the researchers reported in Science on July 31. When applied to old data, the method expected many to be missing as well.
Radiation is released in solar flares and the associated charged grains or plasma explosions can be dangerous. This space period can disrupt radio communications, drop satellites, shut down electrical networks, and endanger astronauts (SN: 9/11/17). More accurate forecasting can allow operators to turn off sensitive systems or prepare to minimize negative effects.
Current forecasting methods are based on tracking phenomena associated with flames such as large, complex sunspots – dark regions on the surface of the sun with strong magnetic fields. However, this leads to false positives.
In contrast, the new method of forecasting relies on the intricacies of how and when the sun’s complex magnetic field loops rearrange themselves in a process called magnetic reconnection, releasing bursts of energy that mark solar flares.
Magnetic fields can be knotty above the sun. Magnetic field lines, imaginary contours showing the direction of the magnetic field in different places, drag, and cross-like well-mixed spaghetti. When these lines burst and connect, an explosion of energy is released which creates a torch. It remains to be clarified how and under what conditions this occurs.
In the new study, physicist Kanya Kusano from Nagoya University in Japan and his colleagues suggest that the largest eruption is created when two magnetic field lines form to form an m-shaped loop, while one loop smaller forms near the surface of the sun. This “double arc instability” leads to a stronger magnetic reconnection, and the them-shaped loop expands and releases energy.
Using 11 years of data from the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, the researchers identified regions of the sun with strong magnetic activity. For each region, the team determines if the conditions are right for a dual arc exit fire, then attempts to predict the strongest fire the sun will produce, called Class X rockets. The method accurately predicted seven of the nine fires that exceeded a threshold chosen by researchers called X2, the second division of the X-class force.
Successful predictions suggest that researchers may have identified the physical process underlying some of the biggest uprisings.
“Prediction is a very good measure of how well we understand nature,” Kusano said.
Unsuccessful predictions also reveal: “Even if it fails, someone said so,” says solar physicist Astrid Veronig of the University of Graz in Austria, who wrote a commentary on the result also published in Science. The two torches missing from the procedure do not expel plasma from the sun’s surface. “This kind of instability may not be a great way to start more fires,” Voronin said. Instead, it may be due to the magnetic reconnection above and not near the surface of the sun.
The mechanism by which the researchers base their predictions “is really interesting and very convincing,” says solar physicist KD Leka of NorthWest Research Associates in Boulder, Colorado. However, the method cannot predict how quickly it will appear. the outbreak occurs an hour or a day after the first conditions appear – and no slightly weaker X1 flame or the next class known as M rockets have been identified that may still be damaged.
“The mantra that I live by,” Leka says, “is any rule you think you’ve figured out about the sun, it’s going to figure out how to break it.”
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