January 29, 2023

Flashes on the sun could help researchers predict solar flares

This information could eventually help improve forecasts of flares and space weather storms—the disrupted circumstances in space caused by the Sun’s activity

In the blazing upper atmosphere of the Sun, a team of scientists have found brand new clues that could help predict when and where the Sun’s next flare might explode.

Using data from NASA’s Solar Mechanics Observatory, or SDO, experts from NorthWest Research Affiliates, or NWRA, identified little signals in the upper levels of the solar atmosphere, the  corona , that can help identify which regions on the Sun are more likely to produce solar flares— energetic bursts of light and particles released from the Sun.

They found that above the regions about to sparkle, the corona produced small-scale flashes— like small sparklers before the big fireworks.

This information could eventually help improve predictions of flares and space weather storms— the disrupted conditions in space caused by the Sun’s activity. Space weather can impact Earth in many ways: producing auroras, endangering astronauts, disrupting  radio communications , as well as causing large electrical power shutdowns.

Scientists have previously studied how exercise in lower layers of the Sun’s atmosphere— such as the photosphere and chromosphere— can suggest impending flare activity within active regions, which are often proclaimed by groups of sunspots, or strong magnetic regions at first glance of the Sun that are more dark and cooler compared to their surroundings. The new findings, released in  The Astrophysical Journal,   amplify that picture.

“ We can get some very different information in the corona compared to we get from the photosphere, or ‘ surface’ of the Sun, ” said KD Leka, lead author at the new study who is also a designated foreign professor with Nagoya University in Japan. “ Our results can provide us a new marker to distinguish which active regions will likely flare soon and that will stay quiet over the next period of time. ”

For their research, the scientists used a newly made image database of the Sun’s active regions captured simply by SDO. The publicly offered resource, described in a friend paper also in  The Astrophysical Journal , combines over eight years of images taken of active regions in uaviolet plus extreme-uaviolet light. Led by Karin Dissauer and engineered by Eric L. Wagner, the NWRA team’s brand new database makes it easier meant for scientists to use data from your Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) on SDO for big statistical studies.

“ It’s the first time the database like this is intended for the  scientific community , and it will be very helpful for studying many subjects, not just flare-ready active regions, ” Dissauer said.

The NWRA team studied a large sample of active regions from the database, using  statistical strategies   developed by group member Graham Barnes. The analysis revealed small sensations in the corona preceded each  flare . These and other new insights will give researchers a better understanding of the particular physics taking place in these magnetically active regions, with the goal of developing new equipment to predict solar flares.

“ Using this research, we are really beginning to dig deeper, ” Dissauer said. “ Down the road, merging all this information from the surface area up through the corona need to allow forecasters to make better predictions about when and where  solar flares   will happen. ”

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