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Magnetic field uses sound waves to ignite sun's ring of fire

chromosphere. The magnetic fountains form the mold for the chromosphere.

Researchers say that it's like standing in Yellowstone National Park and being surrounded by musical geysers that pop up at random, sending out shrill sound waves and hot water shooting high into the air.

"This work finds the missing piece of the puzzle that has fascinated many generations of solar astronomers," said Alexei Pevtsov, program scientist at NASA. "If you fit this piece into place, the whole picture of chromosphere heating becomes more clear."

Over the past twenty years, scientists have studied energetic sound waves as probes of the Sun's interior because the waves are largely trapped by the sun's visible surface -- the photosphere. The research found that some of these waves can escape the photosphere into the chromosphere and corona.

To make the discovery, the team used observations from the SOHO and TRACE spacecraft combined with those from the Magneto-Optical filters at Two Heights, or MOTH, instrument in Antarctica, and the Swedish 1-meter Solar Telescope on the Canary Islands.

The observations gave detailed insights into how some of the trapped waves and their pent-up energy manage to leak out through magnetic "cracks" in the photosphere, sending mass and energy shooting upwards into the atmosphere above.

By analyzing motions of the solar atmosphere in detail, the scientists observed that where there are strong knots in the Sun's magnetic field, sound waves from the interior can leak out and propagate upward into its atmosphere.

"The constantly evolving magnetic field above the solar surface acts like a doorman opening and closing the door for the waves that are constantly passing by," said Bart De Pontieu, a scientist at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif.

These results were confirmed by state-of-the-art computer simulations that show how the leaking waves pr
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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
29-May-2007


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