Scientists find the source of massive solar fountains

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London, April 2 : A team of scientists has used the Hinode spacecraft to find the origin and driver of huge fountains of hot gas on the Sun, which travel at tens of thousands of km per hour and reach great heights.

On the Sun, huge fountains of hot gas erupt in the atmosphere, or corona, every few minutes. These are immense magnetic structures that thread through the solar atmosphere.

Now, scientists have used the Hinode spacecraft to find the origin and driver of these fountains.

Increases in pressure at the base of the Sun's magnetic field cause enormous jets of hot gas to shoot upwards into the solar atmosphere. Once the pressure ceases, the hot gases stop soaring into the atmosphere and fall back towards the solar surface.

The changes in pressure are caused by rearrangements of the Sun's magnetic field, a continual process that results in looping cycles of increasing and decreasing pressure and, consequentially, intermittent solar fountains.

Using the Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS), one of the instruments on Hindoe, scientists have generated images of the Sun, which give information on how fast its gases are moving.

"EIS has observed the Sun's fountains in unprecedented detail and it has enabled us to narrow down the fountains' origins for the first time", comments team member Deb Baker.

"We have also been able to find what drives the fountains by using computer experiments to replicate solar conditions," he added.

According to team leader Dr Michelle Murray from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, "The computer experiments demonstrate that when a new section of magnetic field pushes through the solar surface it generates a continual cycle of fountains."

"But new magnetic fields are constantly emerging across the whole of the solar surface and so our results can explain a whole multitude of fountains that have been observed with Hinode," she added.

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