How do magnetic waves heat the Sun? Scientists are solving a 70-year-old mystery

Sun is the source of energy that sustains all life on Earth, but many remain unknown about it. However, a group at Queen’s University in Belfast has recently unveiled some mysteries and its study is published in Nature Physics.

In 1942, the Swedish physicist and engineer Hannes Alfvén predicted the existence of a new waveform due to the action of plasma magnetism, which led him to the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1970. The Alfvén waves were linked to a variety of sources, including nuclear reactors, gas cloud encompassing comets, laboratory experiments, medical imaging MRI, and the atmosphere of our closest star – the Sun. Scientists have argued for many years that these waves can play an important role in keeping the sun’s extremely high temperatures, but so far they have not been able to prove it.

Dr David Jess of the Queen’s University of Belfast School of Mathematics and Physics explains: “For a long time, scientists across the globe predicted that the Alfvén waves were projected upward from the solar surface to dissolve in the higher layers, releasing huge amounts of heat in the form of heat.

Over the last decade, scientists have been able to prove that the waves exist, but so far there has been no direct evidence that they have been able to convert their heat movement. At the University, we have led a team to investigate and locate the heat produced by the Alfvén waves in a sunspot. This theory was predicted some 75 years ago, but now we have proof for the first time. Our research opens up a new window to understand how this phenomenon could potentially work in other areas like energy reactors and medical devices. ”

The study used sophisticated high-resolution observations from the Dunn Solar Telescope in New Mexico in the US, along with additional observations from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, to analyze the strongest magnetic fields that appear on the sunspots. These sunspots have intense fields similar to modern MRI devices in hospitals and are much larger than our planet.

Dr Samuel Grant, from the same University, commented: “By analyzing the light of the sun in its constituent colors, our international research team has been able to examine the behavior of certain elements of the periodic table in the atmosphere of the Sun, including calcium and iron .

As soon as these elements were detached, intense light flashes were detected in the sequences of the images. These intense flashes had all the Alfvén waves that transform their energy into blast waves, in a way similar to a supersonic aircraft creating an explosion as it surpasses the speed of sound. Then, the blast waves spread to the surrounding plasma, producing intense heat. Using supercomputers, we were able to analyze the data and show for the first time in history that the Alfvén waves were able to forcefully raise plasma temperatures over their calm background. “