New Vision of How Sun's Powerful Magnetic Field Affects Earth | Earth's magnetic field | the earth | the solar wind | Solar magnetic field | magnetic field | NASA | Solar Telescope at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory | Magnetic field of the sun


The Sun's magnetic field is ten times stronger than previously believed, according to a study that may potentially change our understanding of the solar atmosphere and its effects on Earth.

Working from the one-meter Swedish Solar Telescope at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in the Canary Islands, David Kuridze, a researcher at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom, studied a particularly strong solar explosion that erupted near the surface of the Sun in 10 of September 2017.

A combination of favorable conditions and an element of luck enabled the team to determine the magnetic field strength of the flare with unprecedented accuracy.

Everything that happens in the outer atmosphere of the Sun is dominated by the magnetic field

The researchers believe that the findings have the potential to change our understanding of the processes that occur in the immediate atmosphere of the Sun.

"Everything that happens in the outer atmosphere of the Sun is dominated by the magnetic field, but we have very few measures of its strength and spatial characteristics," Kuridze said.

"These are critical parameters, the most important ones for solar corona physics. It's a bit like trying to understand Earth's climate without being able to measure its temperature in various geographic locations," he said.

"This is the first time we have been able to accurately measure the magnetic field of the coronal loops, the building blocks of the Sun's magnetic crown, which has such precision," he added.

Measuring 1,400,000 km long and 150,000,000 kilometers from Earth, the Sun's crown extends for millions of kilometers above the surface.

Solar flares appear as luminous flashes and occur when the magnetic energy accumulated in the solar atmosphere is suddenly released.

So far, successful measurement of the magnetic field has been hampered by the weakness of the Earth's incoming Sun's signal and information about the magnetic field and limitations in the available instrumentation.

The magnetic fields reported in this study are similar to those of a typical refrigerator magnet and about 100 times weaker than the magnetic field found on an MRI scanner.

However, they are still responsible for the confinement of the solar plasma, which forms solar flares, 20,000 km above the surface of the Sun.

Over a period of 10 days in September 2017, Kuridze studied an active area on the surface of the sun that the team knew to be particularly volatile.

However, the used telescope can only focus on one percent of the surface of the Sun at any one time. Fortunately, Kuridze was focused exactly on the right area at the right time when the solar eruption erupted.

These solar explosions can lead to storms that, if they hit Earth, form the northern lights – the Aurora Borealis.

They can also affect communication satellites and GPS systems, as proven on this occasion in September 2017.

"This is a unique set of observations that for the first time provides a detailed map of the magnetic field in coronal loops," said Michail Mathioudakis of Queen's University of Belfast who also worked on the project.

"This highly rewarding result was achieved due to the dedication and perseverance of our early-stage scientists who planned and executed the observations." The methodology used in this work and the result itself will open new avenues in the study of the solar corona, Mathioudakis said.


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