The picture above is a false-color image of loops of hot, electrified gas on the rim of the
Sun, taken with the SOHO spacecraft.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of SOHO/EIT (ESA & NASA
News Flash from the Sun! Shaking Loops Cause Solar Flares
News story originally written on July 12, 2002
Even though they are far away, solar storms can affect us. They can upset spacecraft and electrical power systems. So, figuring out how they happen and how we can predict them is important to NASA and space organizations worldwide.
Scientists have been looking at huge loops of very hot, electrified gas that rise above the sun’s surface to figure out how they become solar flares during storms. They found that these loops are vibrating, shaking back and forth, during solar storms. These vibrations may help explain why violent activity like solar flares happens on the sun.
The loops look like huge arches on the sun. A typical loop is about 220,000 miles (350,000 km) long. (That is as long as traveling around the Earth more than 9 times!) These giant loops are very hot, up to 36 million degrees Fahrenheit. They have a strong magnetic field that keeps the loop stretched tight.
It has recently been discovered that the loops vibrate, rocking back and forth every 20 minutes. Scientists believe that the vibrations probably happen when very energetic particles bursts from low in the Sun’s atmosphere. If these bursts of particles are very strong, they may disrupt the loop and cause a solar flare. So, the lower atmosphere of the sun might be the cause of violent solar activity.
The loops and their vibrations were seen with a special instrument on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (or SOHO) called SUMER. “To be honest,” said Dr. Werner Curdt, who is in charge of SUMER, “when SUMER was built, we didn’t expect anything as amazing as this.”
Last modified July 18, 2002 by Lisa Gardiner.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more
The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on October 29th at 2:19 p.m. EST. The weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit. This was the United States' 123rd...more
A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more
Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials want an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting to be...more
A coronal mass ejection (CME) happened on the Sun early last month. The material that was thrown out from this explosion passed the ACE spacecraft. The SWICS instrument on ACE has produced a new and very...more
J.S. Maini of the Canadian Forest Service called forests the "heart and lungs of the world." This is because forests filter air and water pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and maintain...more
In late April through mid-May 2002, all five naked-eye planets are visible at the same time in the night sky! This is includes Mercury which is generally very hard to see. You won't want to miss this!...more