Solar tsunami presents an energy spectacle

April 5th, 2008 - 4:27 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 5 (IANS) A fiery tsunami that raged across the sun last May at nearly 2,800 km per second released the equivalent of two billion times the annual world energy consumption in just a split second. According to researchers, the tsunami, ignited by huge explosions near the sun’s atmosphere, covered almost the full disc of the sun-nearly a million kilometre away from the epicentre - in just 30 minutes.

Stunning images of the tsunami-captured for the first time by the twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (Stereo) spacecraft - were presented at the National Astronomy Meeting in Belfast Friday.

Called coronal mass ejections (CMEs), the tsunami took place May 19 last year and lasted for about 35 minutes, reaching peak speeds around 20 minutes after the initial blast, ScienceDaily reported.

Stereo’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUVI) instruments monitor the sun at four wavelengths that correspond to temperatures ranging between 60,000 and two million degrees Celsius.

At the lowest of these ranges, scientists can see structures in the chromosphere, a thin layer of the solar atmosphere that lies just above the sun’s visible surface.

At temperatures between one and two million degrees Celsius, scientist can monitor features at varying levels in the solar corona.

The EUVI instruments take an image every few minutes to create a series, making it possible for scientists to track how the wave spreads over time.

This is the first time that a tsunami has been observed in such detail, enabling the team to see how the wave moved through the different layers of the solar atmosphere.

“To our surprise, the tsunami seems to move with similar speed and acceleration through all the layers. As the chromosphere is much denser than the corona, we’d expect the pulse there to drag. It’s a real puzzle,” said Peter Gallagher, a member of the team.

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