Life Cycle Of Solar Flares, Finally Captured Thanks To Comprehensive Computer Model

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A group of researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory managed to reveal the entire life cycle of solar flares thanks to a comprehensive computer model simulation. The model, based on real-life observations, unveiled how a solar flare looks like, from the building-up stage within the Sun to the occurrence of tangled magnetic field lines, and to the explosive release of energy.

“This work allows us to provide an explanation for why flares look like the way they do, not just at a single wavelength, but in visible wavelengths, in ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, and in X-rays. We are explaining the many colors of solar flares,” explained Mark Cheung from the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory and a visiting scholar at Stanford University.

NASA and the National Science Foundation, which is NCAR’s sponsor, funded the research, whose report has been released recently in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Thanks To Comprehensive Computer Model, Scientists Revealed The Life Cycle Of Solar Flares

“We have a model that covers a big range of physical conditions, which makes it very challenging. This kind of realism requires innovative solutions,” said Matthias Rempel, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

The comprehensive computer model revealed how solar flares begin in the convection zone, at about 10,000 kilometers below the surface of the Sun, make their way up to the Sun’s surface, and then pushes out 40,000 kilometers into the Sun’s corona, also known as the Sun’s atmosphere.

“We have a model that covers a big range of physical conditions, which makes it very challenging. This kind of realism requires innovative solutions. Our model was able to capture the entire process, from the buildup of energy to emergence at the surface to rise into the corona, energizing the corona, and then getting to the point when the energy is released in a solar flare,” Matthias Rempel explained.