NASA scientists have finally unraveled the decades old mystery around solar flares. Scientists believe this can be used in better predicting solar storms on Earth.
After being puzzled for more than 60 years, scientists at NASA have finally developed a theory that can explain how the explosions on the Sun take place. This has also revealed how solar flares are born. According to the scientists, an explosive magnetic phenomenon called ‘magnetic reconnection’ is behind solar flares and every single solar storm that has struck the Earth. Studies have shown that this phenomenon can trigger solar flares and release extremely high amounts of energy spontaneously. The energy released is enough to power the entire Earth for centuries. So what is this phenomenon and how can it help us predict solar storms better? Read on to find out.
NASA finds out the mystery behind solar flares
The NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) team has developed a new theory that explains how magnetic reconnection occurs and how it happens so frequently and consistently on the surface of the Sun. For the unaware, magnetic reconnection is a process in which magnetic polarity is changed suddenly giving rise to kinetic and thermal energy along with particle acceleration. According to scientists, a specific type of magnetic reconnection called fast reconnection is responsible for it.
“We have known for a while that fast reconnection happens at a certain rate that seems to be pretty constant. But what really drives that rate has been a mystery until now,” said Barbara Giles, project scientist for MMS and research scientist at NASA.
Now, according to a new research, how fast reconnection occurs in plasma has been explained. When reconnection happens in space, most plasma around the Earth and in solar flares are in a collisionless state, where they are neutrally charged. But during the state of fast reconnection, the charged particles in a plasma such as ions and electrons stop moving as a group and begin moving separately creating an unstable energy vacuum where reconnection happens. Pressure from the magnetic fields causes this vacuum to implode and release a high amount of energy.
NASA scientists believe that this energy release is at a predictable rate and can be further studied to formulate prediction models which will help us know when a solar storm can hit the Earth before a solar flare sets off.