Never before seen eruptions on Sun can help understand solar explosions, predict space weather

A series of three different types of eruptions took place in the form of an explosion that were not seen occurring together in the past. While the Sun generates its energy from continuous nuclear fusion at its core, scientists have been perplexed over the nature of massive eruptions on its surface. Now, a multi-staged eruption could shed light on the mysterious phenomenon that has the power to trigger space weather conditions on Earth. Nasa is calling it "a solar Rosetta Stone".

The multi-staged eruption was first observed on March 12 and 13, 2016 with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and the European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. The explosion contained in itself three different types of eruption, providing scientists with a unique opportunity to study them in relation to each other.

“This event is a missing link, where we can see all of these aspects of different types of eruptions in one neat little package,” said Emily Mason, lead author on the new study.

The study, which has been accepted at the American Astronomical Society meeting, will be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Understanding solar eruptions

The solar eruptions, which could lead to severe space weather affecting Earth by damaging electrical equipment and frequencies, could also be disastrous to astronauts beyond the planet's orbit. Scientists have been studying solar eruptions in a bid to predict them so as to better prepare for space weather conditions. The solar eruptions are of three types-

1. A coronal mass ejection (CME) 2. A jet 3. partial eruptions

Nasa said both coronal mass ejection and jets were explosive eruptions that cast energy and particles into space, but they look different.

"While jets erupt as narrow columns of solar material, CMEs form huge bubbles that expand out, pushed and sculpted by the Sun’s magnetic fields," Nasa said.

Meanwhile, partial eruptions do not have much energy to leave the sun and most of the particles fall back on the surface.

Observing Rosetta Stone eruption

In the 2016 eruptions, scientists observed the ejection of a hot layer of solar material above a magnetically active region of the Sun. The authors of the study said the eruption was too big to be a jet but too narrow to be a CME. Half an hour later, another eruption triggered surface material to be oozed out but it fell back on the surface indicating a partial eruption.

"The event also tells scientists that partial eruptions occur on the same spectrum but encounter some yet-unknown limiter that restricts their energy and doesn’t allow them to make it off the Sun," Nasa said.

Understanding the nature of these eruptions could help astronomers predict the next space weather conditions on the Earth. Space weather is a storm of high-energy particles and activity that can be dangerous to astronauts and technology in space and, in extreme cases, utility grids on Earth. Read all trending updates here

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