Scientists may have discovered when and how the high-energy particles that bombard the Earth and other objects emerge from violent environments like sun atmosphere.
These high-energy particles pose a threat to sensitive satellite technology And astronauts, and can even affect aircraft flying over the North Pole. Although researchers have been studying these particles for decades, it has been difficult to establish a clear pattern of when seizures can appear, and thus predict when they will occur.
In new research, based on simulations created with supercomputers, scientists have identified plasma in the sunThe outer atmosphere as a source of these high-energy particles.
“This exciting new research will allow us to better predict the origin of solar energy particles and improve prediction models space climate events, a major target for NASA and other space agencies and governments around the world,” said Luca Commisso, a Columbia University researcher and co-author of the study, in statement.
The Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, is made of plasma, which means that violent conditions stripped atoms of their electrons. Solar scientists believe that high-energy particles are generated in this extremely turbulent sea of bare atoms (ions) and Electrons.
However, this has been difficult to study, because the plasma moves erratically and unpredictably, so it has been a mystery about how and when the high-energy particles are generated.
Commisso and Lorenzo Cerrone, also from Colombia, developed simulations using supercomputers at NASA, Colombia, and the National Center for Energy Research and Scientific Computing that modeled the precise motion of electrons and ions in solar plasmas. This creates a good proxy for corona that gives the most comprehensive data to date on when and how high-energy particles form in the region.
Simulations have shown that magnetic fields in the corona can accelerate electrons and ions to approximately light’s speedand launch them into space.
The research helps solve a question that scientists have asked since 1949, when Enrico Fermi began investigating magnetic fields in space as the source of the high-energy particles observed embrittlement. Earth’s atmosphere. Fermi’s work has led physicists to suggest that the sun’s plasma could be behind many of these particles, while others have pelted Earth from deep space. But proving this hypothesis has been challenging.
While the team’s results were based on NASA simulations Parker Solar Probe It could help validate the research, Commisso said.
The Parker Solar Probe has been observing our star since the spacecraft was launched in 2018. Part of the mission is to study the sun’s turbulent outer atmosphere. This means that the Parker Solar Probe can directly monitor the distribution of high-energy particles being generated in the corona.
The results of the new work also have implications beyond Solar System. All stars are composed primarily of plasma, which means that the vast majority of matter astronomers see is in this state of matter (which is not a gas, liquid, or solid).
A better understanding of how plasma accelerates particles can explain the high-energy particles seen not only around the sun and other stars but also around other cosmic bodies, such as neutron stars And the black holes.
This opens the door to more simulations that can look into the longer term starsblack holes and neutron stars generate their own high-energy particles.
“Our results are centered around the Sun, but can also be taken as a starting point for a better understanding of how high-energy particles are produced in distant stars and around black holes,” Commisso said. “We’ve only scratched the surface that supercomputer simulations can tell us about how these particles are generated across the universe.”
The team’s research was published on September 13 in Astrophysical Journal Letters.