"Rosetta Stone" Eruption On The Sun Provides Insights Into Solar Explosions

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Powerful solar explosions, like the one observed in 2012 (above), can cause severe disruptions on Earth (Credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory)

Our seemingly calm Sun can have a nasty temper that comes in the form of powerful explosions. The star's unpredictable outbursts can disrupt satellites in orbit and be dangerous for astronauts. Though the flares are well-documented, researchers have never been able to pinpoint the cause of the erratic behavior. Now, the Sun's incredible multi-staged "tantrum" may help scientists get closer to solving the long-standing mystery.

Solar eruptions come in three forms: Coronal Mass Ejections (CME), jets, and partial eruptions. CMEs and jets are both explosive and spew out a large amounts of energy and solar material into space. Partial eruptions start strong but fail to garner enough power for the particles to leave the Sun's surface. Since the events have usually been observed separately, experts were not sure if they were related.

The March 2016 Rosetta Stone solar explosion contained elements of all three solar explosions (Credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory)

But the solar eruption observed in March 2016 had elements of all three explosions! It began with the Sun spewing out scorching solar material that was too large for a jet but too narrow to be classified as a CME. The violent eruptions were followed by a less intense partial explosion in the same location.

NASA researchers, who revealed their findings at the American Astronomical Society meeting on June 7, 2021, say the never-before-seen eruption indicates that all three explosions are triggered by the same mechanism. They speculate that the mechanism also helps reduce the intensity of the explosions in the Sun's corona, resulting in the partial eruption. NASA has dubbed the phenomenon the "Rosetta Stone" solar explosion, after the Egyptian artifact featuring the same script in three languages: hieroglyphics, ancient Egyptian demotic, and ancient Greek.

The failed partial explosion observed in March 2015 (Credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory)

"This event is a missing link, where we can see all of these aspects of different types of eruptions in one neat little package," Emily Mason, a solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. "It drives home the point that these eruptions are caused by the same mechanism, just at different scales."

However, Mason and her team are still unsure what causes the eruptions or why some are more explosive than others. Getting to the bottom of that mystery will enable scientists to predict these events hours in advance, providing astronauts, space agencies, and corporations time to take precautionary measures.

Resources: NASA.gov, Business Insider.com

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83 Comments
  • bmwe
    bmwe8 days
    So cool!
    • 1301246444
      130124644417 days
      this is scary
      • win25437
        win254376 days
        Nah, its pretty cool for the sun! ( Get the pun? )
      • layer
        layer22 days
        Wow
        • cm2
          cm224 days
          cool
          • colt11
            colt1124 days
            i've done a report on this article before and it was so fun to read
            • bigbob
              bigbob26 days
              This is so cool
              • vasosicapody
                this so coool
                • roreseha-159786085867
                  i love this
                  • hipersons
                    hipersonsabout 1 month
                    To think of a partial eruption? seriously cool
                    • pinkpuppink
                      pinkpuppinkabout 1 month
                      this is so cool!