Astronomers Have Detected Structures on The Sun That Lead to Weird ‘Plasma Rain’

Posted: April 8, 2019 by oldbrew in Astrophysics, research, Solar physics

Coronal rain [image credit: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory]

We’re told “The physics is literally the same” for the Earth’s rain and the Sun’s plasma showers, except that on the Sun the scale is much bigger than the entire Earth.

It’s one of the most enduring mysteries of the Sun: why the superheated surface of this great ball of glowing plasma is actually cooler than its outer atmosphere, called the corona.

Scientists now have a new explanation for this hotly debated topic says ScienceAlert, and the answer was hidden in a strange solar phenomenon that’s never been observed quite like this before: a deluge of plasma rain falling within newly discovered magnetic structures called Raining Null Point Topologies.

On Earth, when it gets hot, water evaporates, turning into steam that lifts into the atmosphere, before cooling effectively reverses the process: water molecules condense inside clouds, which later drop rainfall over the land, oceans, and rivers below.

On the scorching surface of the Sun, a similar cycle of events controls what’s known as coronal rain: superheated plasma that traces up from the Sun, often during solar flare events, along invisible magnetic loops.

When this plasma cools as it travels away from the Sun, it forms a kind of fiery rainfall arc, condensing and then descending back down into the photosphere along the paths of these unseen magnetic tracks.

Basically, both Earth and the Sun are similarly subject to showers, just made from different kinds of condensations and cool-downs.

“The physics is literally the same,” solar physicist Emily Mason from the Catholic University of America told Science News last year, describing her preliminary research.

Mason’s research has now just been published, and it tells us something about coronal rain we never knew: it mostly occurs in an unexpected place, and is associated with a phenomenon new to solar physics.

Continued here [includes plasma rain animation].

  1. JB says:

    A “phenomenon” new to solar PHYSICISTS, because in part, it ALWAYS occurs in an unexpected place.

  2. oldbrew says:

    ‘Weird’ may mean ‘we don’t understand it yet’.

  3. oldbrew says:

    Related: Solar experts predict the Sun’s activity in Solar Cycle 25 to be below average, similar to Solar Cycle 24

    April 5, 2019 – Scientists charged with predicting the Sun’s activity for the next 11-year solar cycle say that it’s likely to be weak, much like the current one. The current solar cycle, Cycle 24, is declining and predicted to reach solar minimum – the period when the Sun is least active – late in 2019 or 2020.

    Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel experts said Solar Cycle 25 may have a slow start, but is anticipated to peak with solar maximum occurring between 2023 and 2026, and a sunspot range of 95 to 130. This is well below the average number of sunspots, which typically ranges from 140 to 220 sunspots per solar cycle. The panel has high confidence that the coming cycle should break the trend of weakening solar activity seen over the past four cycles.

    “We expect Solar Cycle 25 will be very similar to Cycle 24: another fairly weak cycle, preceded by a long, deep minimum,” said panel co-chair Lisa Upton, Ph.D., solar physicist with Space Systems Research Corp. “The expectation that Cycle 25 will be comparable in size to Cycle 24 means that the steady decline in solar cycle amplitude, seen from cycles 21-24, has come to an end and that there is no indication that we are currently approaching a Maunder-type minimum in solar activity.”
    – – –
    Still only an ‘expectation’ until it happens like that – or doesn’t 😉

    Quote from the link:
    Later this year, the Panel will release an official Sunspot Number curve which shows the predicted number of sunspots during any given year and any expected asymmetry. The panel will also look into the possibility of providing a Solar Flare Probability Forecast.

    Sounds interesting.

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