Scientists solve decades-old mystery of how magnetic waves heat Sun and drive solar wind

Despite being the source of energy responsible for the sustainability of life on Earth, many mysteries about Sun, the solar system’s only star, are yet to be solved. In what is claimed as a “ground-breaking discovery,” an international team of scientists at Queen’s University Belfast has found that magnetic waves crashing through Sun could be heating its atmosphere and propelling solar wind.

Scientists have suggested for many years that Alfvén waves a type of magnetohydrodynamic wave first predicted by Swedish physicist and engineer Hannes Alfvén in 1942 may help the Sun maintain its extremely high temperatures. This theory was predicted some 75 years ago but we now have the proof for the very first time,

The researchers broke down the Sun’s light into its constituent colors and examined the behavior of certain elements, including calcium and iron, within the solar atmosphere. After researchers managed to extract these elements, they detected intense flashes of light in the image sequences with all the traits of the Alfvén waves converting energy into shock waves.

The shock waves then ripple through the surrounding plasma, producing extreme heat,” Samuel Grant from Queen’s University Belfast said in the statement. “Using supercomputers, we were able to analyze the data and show for the first time in history that the Alfvén waves were capable of increasing plasma temperatures violently above their calm background.”

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