The first images of an upward surge of the Sun's gases into quiescent coronal loops have been identified by an international team of scientists. The discovery is one more step towards understanding the origins of extreme space storms, which can destroy satellite communications and damage power grids on Earth.
The study published July 2 by University of Cambridge scientists working with colleagues in India and the USA is the first to visualise the movement of gases at one million degrees in coronal loops -- solar structures that are rooted at both ends and extend out from active regions of the Sun. Active regions are the 'cradle' for explosive energy releases such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
The observation will help scientists understand what is considered to be one of the most challenging issues in astrophysics -- how solar structures are heated and maintained in the upper solar atmosphere. Extreme solar activity can lead to severe space storms that interfere with satellite communications and damage electric power transmission grids on Earth. Solar activity is cyclical, with the next maximum forecast to occur around May 2013, and severe space weather is now listed very high on the UK's 2012 National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.
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