June 28, 2012
Space Twisters Key To Solar Atmosphere’s Heat
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
An international team of researchers have discovered enormous tornadoes in space, more than a thousand miles wide, that could quite possibly be heating the surface of the Sun to more than a million degrees centigrade, a finding that has possible implications for clean Earth energy.
These super tornadoes -- which are thousands of times larger and immensely more powerful than anything seen on Earth -- twist at speeds beyond 6,000 miles per hour within the Sun´s atmosphere.
The discovery may explain why the atmosphere around the Sun is much hotter than its surface, which has puzzled scientists previously. They believe the solar tornadoes carry energy from the energy reservoir below the Sun´s surface (the convection zone) to the outer atmosphere in the form of magnetic waves.
The scientists, who estimate that there are as many as 11,000 of these supermassive twisters swirling above the Sun´s atmosphere, are hoping that these magnetic tornadoes could form a basis for clean reactors here on Earth. This could be a major step forward in the field of plasma-astrophysics, according to the scientists.
“If we understand how nature heats up magnetized plasmas, like in the tornadoes observed in the Sun, one day we may be able to use this process to develop the necessary technology and build devices on Earth that produce free, clean, green energy,” said lead author Professor Robertus ErdÃ©lyi, Head of the Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Center at the University of Sheffield, UK. “Because of our collaborative research it looks an essential leap forward is made towards unveiling the secrets about a great and exciting problem in plasma-astrophysics and we are getting closer and closer to find a solution.”
“One of the major problems in modern astrophysics is why the atmosphere of a star, like our own Sun, is considerably hotter than its surface?” noted ErdÃ©lyi. “Imagine, that you climb a mountain, and it becomes hotter as you go higher and higher. Many scientists are researching how to ℠heat´ the atmosphere above the surface of the Sun, or any other star.”
“It is understood that the energy originates from below the Sun´s surface, but how this massive amount of energy travels up to the solar atmosphere surrounding it is a mystery,” he added.
The international team of researchers, which include scientists from the University of Oslo, Norway, Uppsala University, Sweden and the Institute for Solar Physics of Freiburg, Germany, as well as the University of Sheffield´s ErdÃ©lyi, believe they may have found evidence in the form of these rotating magnetic solar tornadoes that channel the necessary energy in the form of magnetic waves to heat the magnetized solar plasma.
These space tornadoes are very magnetic and they operate in plasma. Plasma is the forth known state of matter, beside solid, liquid and gas and makes up nearly 99 per cent of the known matter of the Universe.
Using both satellites and ground-based telescopes, the scientists were able to observe these supermassive solar twisters in the outer atmosphere of the Sun. The team used 3D-layered sequences of images of the twisters and then simulated their evolution with high-tech numerical codes using the magnetic imprints detected by high-resolution, cutting-edge telescopes.