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All headlines
  • A mystery source is producing banned ozone-destroying chemicals
  • Water filter inspired by Alan Turing passes first test
  • Scientists transplant memory from one snail to another
  • In an interplanetary first, NASA to fly a helicopter on Mars
  • Facebook privacy: Europe to press Zuckerberg
  • Israeli researchers abuzz about orgasmic fruit flies
  • Secrets of solar flares are unlocked
    Solar flares can occur on their own, or be accompanied by powerful eruptions of plasma from the Sun. If charged particles from these eruptions reach Earth, they can create havoc with infrastructure, such as satellite systems and power grids. Now, researchers from the Ecole polytechnique and the CNRS in France say they may finally understand the mechanism behind solar flares.

    Generally speaking, solar eruptions are caused by a sudden, violent rearrangement of the Sun's magnetic field. At a deeper level, the process is controlled by two types of structures that form in the magnetic field of the Sun: ropes and cages. The rope is confined within the magnetic cage. If the cage is strong, it can contain the rope's contortions, but when the cage is weak, an eruption can take place.

    The researchers focused on an intense flare that developed over a few hours on 24 October 2014. Flares are spawned in the Sun's corona, the outermost layer of its atmosphere. But, for reasons that remain unclear, the corona is much hotter than the surface, inhibiting scientists' ability to study the magnetic field here. Instead, the researchers used data from the photosphere - the Sun's 'surface' - to reconstruct what was going on 1,690 km above in the corona.

    Using data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft, the researchers ran simulations on supercomputers. They found that the rope had insufficient energy to break through all the layers of the cage, snuffing out the possibility of a CME. Despite this, the rope became highly twisted, which triggered a magnetic instability, destroying part of the cage. This allowed a powerful blast of radiation to break through, disrupting technology on Earth.

    Using their method, the researchers have developed a model able to predict the maximum energy that could be released from the region of the Sun concerned. The work could be put to use in forecasting, to provide early warning of solar eruptions that could cause geomagnetic storms here on Earth that threaten infrastructure.

    BBC News    February 08, 2018