Magnetic Ropes Skip To Solar Storms

by Tammy Plotner on June 28, 2011

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On the left, SDO AIA image at the wavelength of 131 angstroms observing the Sun’s atmosphere at a temperature of about ten million degrees. The magnetic rope is seen as the thick looped structure extending above the edge of the Sun. On the right, SDO AIA image at wavelength 171 angstroms observing the corona at a temperature of about one million degrees, showing surrounding cool magnetic field lines are pushed away by the intruding magnetic rope seen on the left. Both images are taken almost simultaneously (within three seconds of each other) at 03:41 UT. (Credit: NASA and George Mason University).

It is our current understanding that the Sun’s magnetic fields and field lines are the cause of solar storms. However, there is no solid evidence as to what form magnetic field lines may take ahead of an energetic outbreak. We know there can be loops connected to the surface – but normally they take the sting off an eruption, rather than cause one. Thanks to a discovery made by associate professor Jie Zhang and his graduate student Xin Cheng using images from the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft, we’re shedding a little light on a solar mystery.

An event called a magnetic rope is assumed to be the progenitor of solar storms – but its existence was far from certain. The phenomena may consist of many magnetic field lines wrapping around a center axis – possibly twisting around each other – and producing an electric current. The current might then be able to generate enough electromagnetic force to overpower the withholding magnetic field lines and cause the rope to move outward at speeds we so far haven’t been able to document… Until now.

Thanks to the images taken by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) telescope on board the SDO, Zhang was able to isolate an area of the Sun where a magnetic rope was forming. What the images provided was a unique look at an active region ahead of an eruption. Revealed was a long and low-lying channel which produces temperatures up to 10 million degrees – and continues heating. When it reaches a critical point this “hot channel” reveals a never before seen feature unlike the surrounding magnetic field lines… possibly the theoretical magnetic rope.

“The magnetic rope triggers a solar eruption. Scientists have been debating whether or not this magnetic rope exists before a solar eruption. I believe that the result of this excellent observation helps finally solve this controversial issue,” says Zhang.

As we’re all aware, it would be a boost to understand and predict solar storms. While our Earth’s “magnetic shield” protects us from the majority of direct exposure, we have satellites, astronauts and terrestrially-based power sources which could benefit from an early warning scenario.

“Understanding the eruption process of these storms will definitely help us better predict them,” says Zhang. “We cannot prevent solar storms, just like we cannot prevent earthquakes or volcanoes. But the development of prediction capacity can help mitigate adverse effects. For instance, satellite operators can power-down key systems to prevent the possible damage to the systems.”

Original Story Source: MSNBC.

About 

Tammy is a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status.

Anonymous June 28, 2011 at 7:30 PM

What I love with the new UT policy is that we can actually discuss plasma and electric fields scientifically without getting flooded by EU-nutters.

So here goes my question:
When we have no moving charge then we do not get a magnetic field generated by that charge.
When the charge moves then it generates a magnetic field. The faster you move it, the stronger the magnetic field and this will in turn actually resist more speed increase.

Now, am I correct that we already notice here relativistic effects? And am I correct that the increased magnetic field is measured relative to an observer that is standing still?

When 2 protons or electrons move with the same speed? Do they feel any magnetic effect on each other? When the observer travels with the same speed of the proton? Will the observer measure no magnetic field, only an electric field?

I already know the answer, earth moves at 30 km/s so any charge on a balloon would give a huge magnetic field when measure din a lab. But I want to cross check people that knows more about this.

WaxyMary June 28, 2011 at 9:36 PM

@Olaf2
So here goes my question:
When we have no moving charge then we do not get a magnetic field generated by that charge.
When the charge moves then it generates a magnetic field. The faster you move it, the stronger the magnetic field and this will in turn actually resist more speed increase.

Mary’s words (MWs)
The article states the magnetic field(s) form the rope and these many interacting fields cause the electric current which then directly causes some amount of increase in the EM field lifting CM prior to ejection of same. It is the EM field which causes the CMEs not some major nuclear explosion (fission) occurring at or near the seeing surface we are measuring.

See below for that portion extracted from article:
An event called a magnetic rope is assumed to be the progenitor of solar storms – but its existence was far from certain. The phenomena may consist of many magnetic field lines wrapping around a center axis – possibly twisting around each other – and producing an electric current. The current might then be able to generate enough electromagnetic force to overpower the withholding magnetic field lines and cause the rope to move outward at speeds we so far haven’t been able to document… Until now.

MWs
Fields fighting fields, yes, you saw it first here on ESPN, extra special personages network, grin.
These fields, still in contention with each other, dominate the sparse solar atmosphere at these altitudes and for some depth into the photosphere; this is my assumption here as none of this is any more than testable assumptions so far.

I can not address your questions on GR as it applies to our understanding of the processes taking place within and near the surface of our star, old sol. I fancy there is some type of EM field density vs speed through the relatively cool lower layers of the sun which accounts for the disturbing observations you posit.

Mary

Anonymous June 29, 2011 at 4:54 PM

WaxyMary, you are right, the movement of the plasma in the case of the solar flare is caused by magnetic fields generated somewhere else.

I just wanted to take the opportunity to learn more about magnetic field caused by a moving charge knowing that I will get a real scientific answer and not some EU nutsience.

The problem is, in school the teacher failed to explain the relationship of electrostatic field and magnetic field. He just took his magic hat and took out this magnetic field formula and that was it. No explanation where that formula came from, he even did not understand it.

So it is very interesting in the context of solar flares and CME to have a grasp the flowing of not only negative charges but also positive charges.

Anonymous June 29, 2011 at 11:29 AM

When 2 protons or electrons move with the same speed? Do they feel any magnetic effect on each other? When the observer travels with the same speed of the proton? Will the observer measure no magnetic field, only an electric field?

Everything moving with the same speed as the charge (that is to say, both don’t move relative to each other) does not measure a magnetic field, only the electric field, that is correct.

Anonymous June 29, 2011 at 4:55 PM

It is actually interesting to realize that it is impossible for 2 charges equal or not equal will move in parallel.Maybe a picosecond.

Anonymous June 29, 2011 at 9:11 PM

Indeed :) .

It is also interesting that an electron and a proton moving side by side is not a current. Many confuse that.

Anonymous June 30, 2011 at 7:24 PM

Well the proton and electron in the same direction has the same but opposing magnetic field and thus cancelling out each others magnetic field so you only have a electrostatic field left.

It actually does not matter if both charges are bound as an atom and be neutral charged or in a plasma state separated but moving in the same direction and also be neutral charged from the outside.

Anonymous June 29, 2011 at 3:02 PM

The magnetic field is an electric field observed on a frame moving relative to the charge from where the electric field originates. If you have a charge q with an electric field

E = (1/4??)(q/r^2)

at some distance r from the charge in a frame stationary with the charge r. Now if the charge is moving relative to some frame there is a current I = qv, and for a current density J (current per unit volume) a magnetic field H emerges as curl H = 4?J.

How this transformation happens ultimately involves special relativity, and Einstein worked relativity theory to make mechanics consistent with the Maxwell equations of electromagnetism.

LC

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE June 29, 2011 at 5:13 PM

I’ll make a note of that for the next time that I have a ‘debate’ with some “Electric Universe” nutter!

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE June 29, 2011 at 3:03 AM

Yo Tammy, at the first paragraph, in the second line, there’s a missing period (.) after “storms” (what should be the end of the first sentence).

Also, at the third paragraph, in the fifth line: “Which it reaches a critical point…”; I think that term should be “When”, not “Which”.

Tammy Plotner June 29, 2011 at 3:21 PM

got ‘er.

Anonymous June 29, 2011 at 8:08 PM

Simple beautiful. An article on magnetic fields that didn’t need a lick of comment editing.

Anonymous June 29, 2011 at 8:46 PM

The prediction of solar storm would be something similar like weather prediction I guess.
They might be off with a day, but right about the location.

Anonymous June 29, 2011 at 9:15 PM

If we could predict solar storms even before they even happen (and even if that would only be a few hours) could potentially save our complete infrastructure. Knowing the occurrence of a potentially dangerous storm could then lead to controlled shut downs of the electric grids and the satellites. A few hours (or even a day) without power and internet will not be as disastrous as being thrown back into the stone age.

WaxyMary June 29, 2011 at 9:42 PM

What would it take, in shielding or such, to prevent the flares & CME from becoming those disastrous events to our infrastructure here on the ground; the arriving EM field and associated ionic particles which are in excess of the earth’s ability to both deflect and redirect toward the poles, in other words, that which enlivens the lesser fields caused by our infrastructure of overhead transmission towers for high AC & long distance DC transmission, all the way into our lesser stepped down lines on industry & city streets and residential areas.

The above is a messy thoughts, I hope you all can make sense of my questions.

The transformers we use and the insulation and dielectric cooling fluids they contain could not prevent any sizable intrusion correct? Even if they are not carrying a load they can be an off load point in some cases for the intruding fields if near enough and if the frequencies are compatible with the coil(s), am I right, do I remember this correctly?

What I am saying is, it is not enough to have notice of a massive flare and switch off the grids and satellites in an orderly manner, but we need some better path to ground for the hung wires and transformers than we currently have installed, am I right?

This would be the lesser of two evils choice though in that event, and would take us less time to be back up, and running again, than having the grid overloaded and fail with all that entails for the generation plants feeding the smart grids.

Mary

Anonymous June 30, 2011 at 7:14 PM

Why shielding? Why not store it as free alternative energy in some capacitor.

Anonymous June 30, 2011 at 10:40 PM

There are some problems with this idea, mostly from a technical point of view as I see it:

1) Such a capacitor is quite a tough choice. Chemicals? Some sort of a battery? Pumping water into a basin?

2) The real problem, however, is that these currents are induced into every wire! That means, that these currents will definitely run into (some) transformers, because you can’t place such capacitors everywhere. You would still cripple the system.

Anonymous June 30, 2011 at 10:45 PM

[...] but we need some better path to ground for the hung wires and transformers than we currently have installed, am I right?

Hm. If you switch of the grids and the transformers the circuits should not be closed any more, so a current cannot flow (at least not so easy). It then depends on the insulation between the wires and the masts their hanging on. If they are strong enough to prevent electric arcs, there should not be a problem.
So, I think, shielding is not necessary. An ordered power down should prevent the most disastrous events.

Anonymous July 1, 2011 at 9:20 PM

It was intended as a joke to defuse the “we are all going to die” :-)

Switching off the grid is also not a good idea since if you switch off a segment then you get too much current on the parts that are not switched off yet. You should lower the generators output first and then switch off segments in a certain order.

But not all power-lines are vulnerable. Only the longest lines. We could have backup backup generators or power-stations standing bye when we have a CME warning, and cut the long lines.

It is also not a lightning zapping effect on those power-lines happening at one single point. It is the complete power-line that have a near even distribution of increased of current. We could put, just like space hardware, strategic resistors on power-lines that lower their resistance when the voltage exceed above a certain threshold.

Anonymous July 1, 2011 at 9:43 PM

Sure, that’s the way to go.
But for that we definitely need more time in advance than only a few minutes, I presume. Every moment we get by a good prediction of an upcoming solar event could lower the possibilities of catastrophic outcomes.

And yeah: “WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!” :-D

There, I said it! ;-)

Anonymous July 1, 2011 at 9:43 PM

Sure, that’s the way to go.
But for that we definitely need more time in advance than only a few minutes, I presume. Every moment we get by a good prediction of an upcoming solar event could lower the possibilities of catastrophic outcomes.

And yeah: “WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!” :-D

There, I said it! ;-)

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