Mysterious Solar Ripples Detected
Mysterious waves that help transport the sun"s energy out into space have been detected by scientists for the first time.
Researchers hope their discovery of the energetic ripples, known as Alfven waves, will shed light on other solar phenomena such as the sun"s magnetic fields and its super-hot corona, or outermost atmosphere. A new video shows the ripples in action.
"Alfven waves can provide us with a window into processes that are fundamental to the workings of the sun and its impacts on Earth," said Steve Tomczyk, a space scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
Like a wave traveling along a string, Alfven waves run along the sun"s magnetic field lines and reach deep into space. While astrophysicists have identified the waves far away from the sun, they"ve never been detected close to our star-the ripples were too small and too fast to spot.
The waves are visible all the time and they occur all over the corona, which was initially surprising to us.
The waves might help explain how energy is transferred to the sun"s corona, which is millions of degrees hotter than the solar surface.