In First, Scientists Trace Fastest Solar Particles to Their Roots on the Sun

From NASA

Mar 10, 2021

In First, Scientists Trace Fastest Solar Particles to Their Roots on the Sun

Zipping through space at close to the speed of light, Solar Energetic Particles, or SEPs, are one of the main challenges for the future of human spaceflight. Clouds of these tiny solar projectiles can make it to Earth – a 93 million mile journey – in under an hour. They can fry sensitive spacecraft electronics and pose serious risks to human astronauts. But their onset is extraordinarily hard to predict, in part because we still don’t know exactly where on the Sun they come from.

A new study tracing three SEP bursts back to the Sun has provided the first answer.

“We have for the first time been able to pinpoint the specific sources of these energetic particles,” said Stephanie Yardley, space physicist at the University College London and coauthor of the paper. “Understanding the source regions and physical processes that produce SEPs could lead to improved forecasting of these events.” Study authors David Brooks, space physicist at George Mason University in Washington, D.C., and Yardley published their findings in Science Advances on March 3, 2021.

SEPs can shoot out from the Sun in any direction; catching one in the vastness of space is no small feat. NASA’s Heliophysics System Observatory – a growing fleet of Sun-studying spacecraft, strategically placed throughout the solar system – was designed in part to increase the chances of those lucky encounters. 

Scientists have divided SEP events into two major types: impulsive and gradual. Impulsive SEP events usually happen after solar flares, the bright flashes on the Sun produced by abrupt magnetic eruptions.

“There’s this really sharp spike, and then an exponential decay with time,” said Lynn Wilson, project scientist for the Wind spacecraft at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

closeup of solar flare

A close-up view of one of the flares from AR 11944 emitted on January 7th, 2014. This flare may be how the SEPs detected by Wind were released from the Sun.Credits: NASA/SDO

Gradual SEPs last longer, sometimes for days. They come in large swarms, making the blasts a bigger risk to astronauts and satellites. Gradual SEPs are pushed along from behind by coronal mass ejections, or CMEs – large plumes of solar material that billow through space like a tidal wave. The SEPs act like surfers, caught by that wave and propelled to incredible speeds.

The greatest mystery about gradual SEPs is not what speeds them up, but where they come from in the first place. For reasons still not fully understood, SEPs contain a different mix of particles than the other solar material streaming off the Sun in the solar wind – fewer carbon, sulfur, and phosphorous ions, for instance. Some scientists suspect they’re cut from an entirely different cloth, forming in a different feature or layer of the Sun than the rest of the solar wind.

To find out where SEPs come from, Brooks and Yardley traced gradual SEP events from January 2014 back to their origin on the Sun.

They started with NASA’s Wind spacecraft, which orbits at the L1 Lagrange point about 1 million miles closer to the Sun than we are. One of Wind’s eight instruments is the Energetic Particles: Acceleration, Composition, and Transport, or EPACT instrument, which specializes in detecting SEPs. EPACT captured three strong SEP blasts on January 4th, 6th and 8th.

Wind’s data showed that these SEP events indeed had a specific “fingerprint” – a different mix of particles than is typically found in the solar wind.

“There is often less sulfur in SEPs compared to the solar wind, sometimes a lot less” said Brooks, lead author of the paper. “This is a unique fingerprint of SEPs that allows us to search for places in the Sun’s atmosphere where sulfur is also lacking.”

They turned to JAXA/NASA’s Sun-watching Hinode spacecraft, an observatory in which Brooks serves a critical operational role for NASA from Japan. Hinode was watching Active Region 11944, a bright area of strong magnetic field with a large dark sunspot visible from Earth. AR 11944 had produced several large flares and CMEs in early January that released and accelerated the SEPs Wind observed.

Hinode’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer, or EIS instrument, scanned the active region, breaking the light into spectral lines used to identify specific elements. They looked for places in the active region with a matching fingerprint, where the specific mix of elements agreed with what they saw in Wind’s data.

“This type of research is exactly what Hinode was designed to pursue,” said Sabrina Savage, the U.S. project scientist for Hinode. “Complex system science cannot be done in a bubble with only one mission.”

Hinode’s data revealed the source of the SEP events – but it wasn’t what either Brooks or Yardley expected.

As a rule, the solar wind can escape more easily by finding open magnetic field lines – field lines anchored to the Sun at one end but streaming out into space on the other.

animated illustration of corona

Closed magnetic field lines loop back to the Sun, surrounded by open field lines that reach out into space, as depicted in this illustration.Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Lisa Poje/Genna Duberstein

“I really thought we were going to find it at the edges of the active region where the magnetic field is already open and material can escape directly,” Brooks said. “But the fingerprint matched only in regions where the magnetic field is still closed.”

The SEPs had somehow broken free from strong magnetic loops connected to the Sun at both ends. These loops trap material near the top of the chromosphere, one layer below where solar flares and coronal mass ejections erupt.

“People have already been thinking about ways it could get out from closed field – especially in the context of the solar wind,” Brooks said. “But I think the fact that the material was found in the core of the region, where the magnetic fields are very strong, makes it harder for those processes to work.”

The surprising result raises new questions about how SEPs escape the Sun, questions ripe for future work. Still, pinpointing one event’s source is a big step forward.

“Normally, you have to infer this kind of thing – you’d say, ‘look we saw an SEP and a solar flare, and the SEP probably came from the solar flare,’” said Wilson, who wasn’t involved in the study. “But this is direct evidence tying these two phenomena together.”

Brooks and Yardley also demonstrate one way to use NASA’s growing Heliophysics System Observatory, combining multi-spacecraft observations to do science that previously wasn’t possible.

“It’s a way of thinking about all the spacecraft that are in flight that you can use to do a single study,” Wilson said. “It’s like having a bunch of weather stations — you start to get a much better picture of what the weather is doing on a larger scale, and you can actively start to try to predict it.”

“These authors have done a remarkable job combining the right data sets and applying them to the right questions,” Savage said. “The search for the origins of potentially harmful energetic particles has been critically narrowed thanks to this effort.”


Banner Image: A solar flare from AR 11944 emitted on January 7th, 2014 seen in several different wavelengths of light from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. From right to left, the artificially-colored images show plasma at approximately 1 million degrees Fahrenheit (600,000 degrees Celsius), 4.5 million degrees Fahrenheit (2.5 million degrees Celsius), and 12.7 million degrees Fahrenheit (7.1 million degrees Celsius). Credits: NASA/SDO


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By Miles Hatfield

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.Last Updated: Mar 10, 2021Editor: Miles Hatfield

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Vuk
March 11, 2021 2:30 am

They still go on about magnetic field lines. There are no such things, magnetic fields are quantum fields, no lines but there are plasma layers most often double, electrostatic double & electric double, very thin- Debye length (electric potential falls by 1/e) and flux tubes as seen in some of the photos.
Note, not a single occurrence of word ‘electric’, and to mention ‘current’ would be ‘solar science’ crime of the century.

Last edited 1 month ago by Vuk
Vuk
Reply to  Vuk
March 11, 2021 2:55 am

I also noticed in this ‘overwhelming plasma solar environment’ word ‘plasma’ is only mentioned once and that is in the footnote relating to the banner image, while ‘magnetic’ permeates whole article. I wonder if the author knew what is magnetic permeability, but if you are curios what might be its value in plasma (Niels Bohr thesis, original available on line .pdf) I suggest don’t go there
https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/169454/calculating-the-magnetic-permeability-of-a-known-plasma/371774#:~:text=For%20plasmas%20we%20have%20μ,03kBT.

Last edited 1 month ago by Vuk
commieBob
Reply to  Vuk
March 11, 2021 3:24 am

There is, of course, such a thing as a permanent magnet. Otherwise, the only way you get a magnetic field is to have a flow of charged particles.

As far as I can tell, nobody denies the existence of charged particles moving at high velocities in, around, and away from the sun. I would call the movement of charged particles a current. Is there someone who would say otherwise?

Vuk
Reply to  commieBob
March 11, 2021 4:50 am

We sort of know how permanent magnets work, but not guaranteed. Basically there are some unpaired orbiting electrons with spin creating a bit of individual very weak domain field, lining up all or most of the domains creates strong permanent magnet. All a bit of guess work.
Feynman gave a lecture on the subject, ‘simples is not’, but learning enriches the mind and soul
https://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/II_34.html

Vuk
Reply to  Vuk
March 11, 2021 5:39 am

Forgot to say in the link above there are red triangle arrows near the top, by clicking on the vertical one you can access index of the Feynman’s lectures on electromagnetism. Left and right arrows take you to the previous/next subject. 

commieBob
Reply to  Vuk
March 11, 2021 5:41 am

What I was commenting on was:

… to mention ‘current’ would be ‘solar science’ crime of the century.

Is there some kind of controversy that makes the mention of current not kosher?

Vuk
Reply to  commieBob
March 11, 2021 6:30 am

No, we occasionally see articles related to the sun but ‘electric current’ is never mentioned, so one has to conclude that it must be some kind of gross transgression to do so.
There are electric currents inside the sun that generate its magnetic field, there are electric currents  in the sun’s atmosphere and there are electric currents linking sun to the planetary magnetospheres, and there are planetary electric currents (e.g. in case of Earth Pedersen current).
Since Mars is in the news, readers might like to hear that Mars has its currents too
https://youtu.be/KkKak9bNGjU

Drachir Thennek
Reply to  commieBob
March 11, 2021 6:10 am

WUWT… a place so far disconnected from reality and science that there is even a discussion about the existence of magnetic fields!!! You crack me up.
To imagine that people come to this blog and think there is valid information is beyond ridiculous…

Mr.
Reply to  Drachir Thennek
March 11, 2021 8:29 am

Yet here you are, Drachir.
🥱

Drachir Thennek
Reply to  Mr.
March 11, 2021 9:14 am

I have a lot of fun reading the ignorant posts in this website…

Or the stolen ones. For instance this one is copied from nasa’s website.. amazing.

Vuk
Reply to  Drachir Thennek
March 11, 2021 10:28 am

Of course it is a copy of NASA’s article, if you look at the top of the page it says:
From NASA
with link leading to the NASA’s website.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Drachir Thennek
March 11, 2021 9:45 pm

Just because one or a few commenters say some wacky shit in a comment doesn’t make the site’s posting invalid.
This is a repost of a NASA post on solid observational solar physics.
At other climate Goebbels web sites, we usually see politically incorrect comments are simply taken down and sent to the trash. No discussion allowed even from well framed arguments about some junk climate paper.

Amazingly Drachir, in serious physics, real physicists even seriously discuss the possibilities that Einstein’s General Relativity is wrong, even though it is supported so far by every experimental given it to the experimental uncertainty level of the test. No one laughs people out of the room when are arguments are welled framed with maths.

Which do you prefer?
Censorship to enforce “consensus science” or open discussion Drachir?

Last edited 1 month ago by joelobryan
commieBob
Reply to  Drachir Thennek
March 11, 2021 8:36 am

So, if I can paraphrase the conversation between Vuk and myself …

Why is it that the electric currents that cause the sun’s magnetic fields are never explicitly mentioned.?

Perhaps English is not your mother tongue. Perhaps you are ideologically possessed and that prevents you from comprehending what you are attempting to read. Whatever …

Drachir Thennek
Reply to  commieBob
March 11, 2021 8:52 am

what do you mean never mentioned? The matter is highly ionized, you basically have free electrons and and protons at the core of the Sun that give rise to the magnetic field. Have you bothered to check with a physicist about this? How did you come to the conclusion that all physics are wrong and there are no magnetic fields??…

You have a weird theory that goes against basic physics, which one of the following is more likely to be true??
1) all phd physicists, professors, scientists are wrong and you got something they have missed
2) there is a conspiracy, so all scientists know about it but lie and hide it
3) scientists know better than you and you got something wrong.

sorry to tell you, but it’s number 3..

MarkW
Reply to  Drachir Thennek
March 11, 2021 9:02 am

And the second alarmist argument. Only those people who support what I already believe are scientists.

Drachir Thennek
Reply to  MarkW
March 11, 2021 9:12 am

scientists are those who have the proper education in the respective field, have done active research and can prove it with publications in that field. Now show me one scientist that claims there are no magnetic field lines…

commieBob
Reply to  Drachir Thennek
March 11, 2021 9:58 am

Actually, it’s high school physics.

Magnetic field lines are a visual tool used to represent magnetic fields. They describe the direction of the magnetic force on a north monopole at any given position

link

The map is not the territory.

Reply to  commieBob
March 11, 2021 1:56 pm

No permit for Europeans to access the link…..

Richard G.
Reply to  Drachir Thennek
March 11, 2021 7:10 pm

Reification (also known as concretism, hypostatization, or the fallacy of misplaced concreteness) is a fallacy of ambiguity, when an abstraction (abstract belief or hypothetical construct) is treated as if it were a concrete real event or physical entity.

Magnetic fields exist. Magnetic field lines are an abstract visual tool to help us conceptualize magnetic fields. Magnetic field lines do not exist, they are reification.

commieBob
Reply to  Drachir Thennek
March 11, 2021 9:49 am

We didn’t say any of the things you attribute to us. You are a low grade troll.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  commieBob
March 11, 2021 10:48 am

“We didn’t say any of the things you attribute to us.”

Yeah, I kept wondering who he was referring to when he said they didn’t believe in magnetic fields.

I think he completely misunderstood the conversation.

MarkW
Reply to  Drachir Thennek
March 11, 2021 9:01 am

What is it about alarmists and their need to lie about what others have said so that they can finally feel superior to someone.

The argument is about field lines, not fields. Even a progressive should be able to understand that difference.

Drachir Thennek
Reply to  MarkW
March 11, 2021 9:11 am

so you argue that the point that there are no magnetic field lines is better? entertain me, while also please answer this question

You have a weird theory that goes against basic physics, which one of the following is more likely to be true??
1) all phd physicists, professors, scientists are wrong and you got something they have missed
2) there is a conspiracy, so all scientists know about it but lie and hide it
3) scientists know better than you and you got something wrong.

Vuk
Reply to  Drachir Thennek
March 11, 2021 11:05 am

Drachir, there is proverb from the sub-continent
‘He can’t tell his ass from a hole in the ground.’

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  commieBob
March 11, 2021 9:39 pm

Even neutrons, without an electric charge, have a magnetic dipole moment.

Vuk
Reply to  Vuk
March 11, 2021 9:52 am

Magnetic field closes via path of the least resistance.
In free air or vacuum where there is no areas of enhanced magnetic ‘conductivity’, magnetic field is continuous, no discrete field lines can be observed.
Bar magnet in the old school experiment with iron filings will force filings to create paths of least resistancecomment image
comment image
so what is going on here?
Each little bit becomes a magnet in its own right lets say starting from N and forms path of low resistance N-S-N-S …. end so on all the way to the other end of the bar.
another bit starting from N wants to do the same N-S-N-S … but than you would have N next to N between two paths so they will repel each other; the result is number of independent paths repelling each other so slightly.
Note that in some places these iron filings pats join, the reason is that a slightly longer bit would bridge across N-S junction, while ‘theory’ of discrete magnetic field lines would not allow for such anomaly of joining two ‘field lines’ into a single one.
In between pats of least resistance so created there is low intensity, so on macroscopic scale these paths give impression of lines hence magnetic field ‘lines’ entered into vocabulary as an easy but somewhat false demonstration of a magnetic field.
In illustrations density of the lines is used to demonstrate strength of the field, but that doesn’t mean that field =0 in between, just look at atmospheric pressure lines on the weatherman’s synoptic maps.

Last edited 1 month ago by Vuk
Vuk
Reply to  Vuk
March 11, 2021 2:32 pm

What did Feynman had to say?
https://youtu.be/36GT2zI8lVA

Vuk
Reply to  Vuk
March 11, 2021 12:01 pm

“As a rule, the solar wind can escape more easily by finding open magnetic field lines”
What is meant is open magnetic flux (integral of B over a surface), however the rest (as I understand it) is wrong way around, i.e. the Sun’s open magnetic field/magnetic flux that is dragged out by the solar wind. Since there are no magnetic mono-poles on astronomical scale open flux must close either before heliopause and so becoming closed flux, or possibly link into galactic magnetic field. IBEX and Voyager spacecraft have been collecting relevant data.comment image

Last edited 1 month ago by Vuk
Peta of Newark
March 11, 2021 3:58 am

They haven’t found anything at all have they?

Apart from, someone further up their organisation at their door demanding justification for their continued funding & existence.
Thus the verbiage we see
e.g.

  • “”in which Brooks serves a critical operational role for NASA“”
  • “”harmful energetic particles has been critically narrowed thanks to this effort.””
  • Just on the off-chance we forget who they are: “”spacecraft at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland“”
  • Or what they’re doing: “”a bubble with only one mission.”””
  • They have found something but:””questions ripe for future work.””
  • Uh oh, we do know what they;re doing. Flailing in the dark:””For reasons still not fully understood“”
  • They care, they really do care:””They can fry sensitive spacecraft electronics and pose serious risks to human ## astronauts

btw: What’s with the weasel word ‘can’, is stuff fried or is it not?

## Jus’ wonderin’ = Human
Is there any other sort of astronaut?

I am and nobody else should be buying the idea of ‘open magnetic field lines
Those lines connect with something somewhere.

Its perfectly obvious how these SEPs are created – especially by closed loops

Remember your ‘secondary school’ physics classes?
Inside magnetic systems/fields, electric fields and charged (free to move) particles, everything interacts at right-angles to everything else.
OK
So, in the closed loops, free-to-move charged particles are being accelerated – not especially their speed, their velocity is changing
i.e. Speed in a given direction.
Charged particles are being hurled around in ‘loops’ and always at right-angles to the direction of the magnetic field – which is also changing because it is a loop.

But, huge numbers of conventional solar-wind particles are coming directly up from the surface of the sun – in a straight-ish line.
There are bound to be some epic and very high speed collisions of very hard and perfectly elastic particles – it is those collisions creating the SEPs

Its barely any different from what goes on in the magnetron of your microwave oven, any X-ray machine, what happens inside CRT television tubes etc etc

Horrible thought:
peta goes check the ‘zapper’ in the kitchen, in case a Sputnik has got in there spouting weasel words, proclaiming self-importance and demanding money.
A trip to the local recycling dump may be in order

I love the mention of 2 very significant Liebig Limiters: Sulphur and Phosphorus
Is El Sol also feeding earth-bound plants and changing The Climate?

Last edited 1 month ago by Peta of Newark
Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 11, 2021 4:29 am

Fail or what:
It is EXACTLY what the big particle accelerators do. Smash high speed bits, moving in loops/circles, into other hi-speed bits to (try to) create even higher speed (read= Energy) bits
e.g. CERN

I know you were worried: The microwave seems OK, will go the the garden centre instead.
🙂

Last edited 1 month ago by Peta of Newark
commieBob
Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 11, 2021 6:02 am

Apart from, someone further up their organisation at their door demanding justification for their continued funding & existence.

There’s applied research which can and should be properly managed. It produces incremental results but is guaranteed to snuff out breakthroughs.

For breakthroughs, you need curiosity driven research. Greatness Cannot be Planned

The system that is supposed to foster research is dysfunctional. The result is that the vast majority of published research findings are wrong.

March 11, 2021 4:52 am

Cool!
One day, we will be able to take similar photos of earth, albeit at very different wavelengths, showing the vibrant life of our silicate atmosphere (yes, I know ‘atmosphere’ is not the right word, but we do not have a ‘right’ word, just like our best words to describe the denser part of our biosphere, is ‘ground’ or ‘mantle’).
How silly will the CO2 boo! bogeymen look then! They seem to think “weather” is something that happens on TV, or in the clouds, or computer models.
Same thing with this paper; they keep looking for some specific thing to blame for the sun’s climate, and they end up describing ‘weather’ patterns. Imagine an alien spacecraft meticulously mapping and chemically analysing every rock in the Irondaks, looking for the source of lightning…and then print out ‘adjusted’ statistics for groundhog sleeping patterns.
But at least we are starting somewhere, viva science!

James F. Evans
March 11, 2021 8:13 am

The answer is simple: magnetism is manifest and pervasive around the Sun and it can be observed & measured. It is much harder to observe & measure electric fields.

Part two: There is a historic prejudice in the astronomy community against reporting electromagnetic (including the electric field component) physical processes and phenomenon in space, as it was strongly denied to exist in space entirely until relatively recently.

Now, science knows better, but habits die hard.

The electric field and electric currents (charged particles) are part and parcel of magnetic systems because they are really electromagnetic systems.

beng135
March 11, 2021 9:34 am

Thanks — some very nice images to save.

Tom Abbott
March 11, 2021 10:14 am

From the article: “Hinode’s data revealed the source of the SEP events – but it wasn’t what either Brooks or Yardley expected.”

Science in action. Finding the unexpected. Thrilling!

rickk
March 12, 2021 10:11 am

Is it just me or is Brooks & Yardley a great name for a men’s haberdashery?

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