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Scientific research. Scientists have created ‘solar flares’ in the lab. They were the size of a banana

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“Solar flares” on a small scale managed to produce American scientists. Researchers have analyzed the mechanism that leads to the formation of coronal loops, arcs of plasma rising above the surface of the Sun, and reproduced them in the laboratory. The simulation allowed us to discover that their structure may be completely different than we thought.

Solar activity has been the subject of astronomical research for many years, but many aspects of it still remain a mystery to us. While we know what causes solar flares, we’re only now beginning to get to the bottom of what causes them. Published in the journal “Nature Astronomy”, the study of American scientists gives us new insight into this process and the possibility of observing it … on Earth.

Banana-sized flare

The subject of the analysis were coronal loops – arcs of plasma rising above the surface of the Sun, located along the lines of the magnetic field. They usually develop slowly, but sometimes they can suddenly fire a huge amount of energy. This phenomenon is called a solar flare, and its power can be billions of times more powerful than the most powerful nuclear explosion.

As Paul Bellan of the California University of Technology (CalTech), a co-author of the paper, explained, there are two methods for studying coronal loops. The first is to observe the sun in the hope of capturing the details of the phenomenon, and the second, more convenient, is to simulate a loop in the laboratory. The researchers built a vacuum chamber with double electrodes for this purpose. The system was charged with enough energy for a few microseconds to power a city of 100,000, and then discharged, creating a miniature coronal loop.

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Each loop lasts for about 10 microseconds, is 20 centimeters long and 1 cm in diameter. Despite the size comparable to a ripe banana, it is structurally identical to the real one. The loops are recorded with a camera capable of recording 10 million frames per second, and despite the enormous amount of energy, a single experiment only uses as much as it takes to run a 100-watt light bulb for about a minute.

Structures observed in a real (top) and simulated (bottom) coronal loopBellan Lab/Caltech

Solar braids

Thanks to the simulation, the scientists were able to observe that the coronal loops do not appear to be a single structure as they appear from Earth, but are composed of narrower strands of plasma, braided like braids.

“If we unravel a piece of rope, we see that it consists of narrower strands,” explained Yang Zhang, the lead author of the paper. -When we stretch the individual threads, we see that they are intertwined with even finer fibers, and so on. Plasma loops seem to behave the same way.

According to the researchers, such a structure helps generate X-ray bursts associated with solar flares. Plasma is a strong electrical conductor, but when too much current tries to flow through the solar corona loop, its structure is compromised. The loop begins to unwind, and individual strands – tear. At the moment of breaking, an X-ray pulse is emitted, and each broken thread transfers the stress to the others.

“Like a rubber band pulled too far, the coronal loop gets longer and thinner until it just breaks,” added Seth Pree, co-author of the study.

Simulated coronal loop Bellan Lab/Caltech

CalTech, LiveScience, tvnmeteo.pl

Main photo source: Bellan Lab/Caltech



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