Astrophysicists at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, have created the first self-consistent model of the physical processes that occur during a solar flare. The researchers used Flemish Supercomputer Center supercomputers and a new combination of physics models.
Solar flares are explosions on the surface of the Sun, during which a gigantic amount of energy is released, equivalent to the simultaneous explosion of a trillion atomic bombs "Kid". In extreme cases, solar flares can cause severe radio interference on Earth, but they also underlie very scenic weather events. Aurora Borealis, for example, is associated with solar flares, which disturb the Sun's magnetic field to such an extent that a clot of plasma bursts out of the atmosphere of our star.
Thanks to satellites and solar telescopes, we already know quite a lot about the physical processes that take place during solar flares. For example, we know that solar flares very efficiently convert the energy of magnetic fields into heat, light, and energy from streams of moving particles.
In textbooks, these processes are usually visualized as a standard two-dimensional model. Upon deep examination of such a model, however, some details still remain unconfirmed. This is due to the fact that the creation of a fully consistent model is a difficult task, since both macroscopic effects (we are talking about distances of tens of thousands of kilometers, that is, exceeding the size of the Earth) and the physics of microscopic particles must be taken into account.
Now researchers at the Catholic University of Leuven have been able to create such a model. Wenzhi Ruan worked on this model with his colleagues as part of the team of Professor Rony Keppens at the Department of Plasma Astrophysics at the Catholic University of Leuven. The researchers used the computing power of Flemish's supercomputers, as well as a new combination of physical models that take the microscopic effects of accelerated charged particles into account when building a macroscopic model.
“Our work also allows us to calculate the conversion efficiency of solar flares,” explains Professor Köppens. "We can calculate this efficiency by considering together the strength of the Sun's magnetic field at the base of the flare and the speed at which the base of the flare is moving in space."
“We have transformed the results of numerical simulations into virtual solar flare observations, which allowed us to simulate observations made with telescopes at all required wavelengths. This, in turn, made it possible to improve the standard model of a solar flare, presented in textbooks, turning it into a full-fledged, “working” model”.
The study is published in the Astrophysical Journal.