24/7 Space News
Solar astronomers discover 'shooting stars' on the Sun's corona
SolO view in the EUV on 30 March 2022 showing a partial section of the Sun with gas at 1 million degrees. The red paths correspond to some of the rain tracks analysed in this work. The Earth image has been overlaid to scale. Credit Patrick Antolin. Background image: ESA/Solar Orbiter EUI/HRI
Solar astronomers discover 'shooting stars' on the Sun's corona
by Staff Writers
Newcastle upon Tyne UK (SPX) Jul 04, 2023

A team of astronomers from several European institutions led by Northumbria University in Newcastle has discovered 'shooting stars' on the Sun. Observations from the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter (SolO) have revealed never-before-seen 'falling star'-type phenomena or meteor-like fireballs occurring within the spectacular plasma displays known as coronal rain. The work will be presented this week at the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2023) by lead author Patrick Antolin, Assistant Professor at Northumbria University.

Although not real water, coronal rain is a condensation process in which some of the Sun's fiery material clumps together due to sudden, localised temperature drops. The corona, which is the outermost part of the Sun's atmosphere, is formed of gas at million-degree temperatures, and quick drops in temperature produce super-dense clumps of plasma that reach 250 kilometres wide. These fiery balls plummet back down towards the Sun as gravity pulls them in at over 100 kilometres per second.

The research will be published in a special issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics dedicated to SolO's first close perihelion to the Sun. In spring 2022, SolO cruised super close to the sun at a distance of only 49 million kilometres - a third of the distance between the Earth and the Sun - allowing the best spatial resolution ever obtained of the solar corona.

Along with the first super-high-resolution images of the coronal rain clumps, SolO observed the heating and compression of gas immediately underneath them. The resulting spike in intensity below the clumps indicates that the gas is heated up to a million degrees, which lasts for a few minutes as they fall.

On Earth, 'shooting stars' happen when meteoroids, or objects in space that range in size from dust grains to small asteroids, enter our atmosphere at high speeds and burn up. Only some meteors make it to the ground without disintegrating and those that do can produce huge craters. But the Sun's corona is thin and low in density and does not strip much material off the clumps, so scientists think most of the 'shooting stars' make it to the solar surface intact. Their impacts have never been observed until now and SolO's observations have revealed that this process can produce a brief, strong brightening with an upward surge of material and shock waves that reheat the gas above.

'Shooting stars' and meteors in Earth's atmosphere are characterised by a trace behind the meteor's path, formed when heated material underneath strips off parts of the object - a process called ablation. The same happens to comets orbiting the Sun. However, ablation does not occur in the solar corona because of its magnetic field. Instead, falling gas is partially ionised and follows the magnetic field lines, which act as giant tubes that funnel the gas. The compression and heat underneath prevents the clumps from producing tails and makes the phenomenon much harder to capture on the Sun.

The project's lead author, Patrick Antolin, says: "The inner solar corona is so hot we may never be able to probe it in situ with a spacecraft. However, SolO orbits close enough to the Sun that it can detect small-scale phenomena occurring within the corona, such as the effect of the rain on the corona, allowing us a precious indirect probe of the coronal environment that is crucial to understanding its composition and thermodynamics. Just detecting coronal rain is a huge step forward for solar physics because it gives us important clues about the major solar mysteries, such as how it is heated to millions of degrees."

"If humans were alien beings capable of living on the Sun's surface, we would constantly be rewarded with amazing views of shooting stars," jokes Antolin, "but we would need to watch out for our heads!"

These SolO observations have also confirmed earlier research which showed that coronal rain is far more pervasive than previously thought.

Research Report:EUV fine structure and variability associated with coronal rain revealed by Solar Orbiter/EUI HRIEUV and SPICE

Related Links
Northumbria University
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
Parker Solar Probe completes 16th close approach to the Sun
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Jul 04, 2023
In the midst of space exploration advancements, NASA's Parker Solar Probe has successfully completed its 16th orbit of the Sun on June 27, 2023, furthering our understanding of the Sun-Earth system and its implications for life and society. During this orbit, the spacecraft executed a close approach or perihelion on June 22, 2023, approaching within a distance of 5.3 million miles from the solar surface. Throughout this high-speed venture, moving at a speed of 364,610 miles per hour, the spacecraf ... read more

NASA expands task orders for spacewalking, moonwalking suits

Winning spacesuit designs

Space Act Agreement with NASA will advance UArizona engagement in human spaceflight

RTX selected for crossover task order under NASA xEVAS contract

Canadian student rocketry group reaches new heights with Spaceport Nova Scotia's first launch

Southern Launch reveals new logo and branding

SpaceX's Falcon 9 first-stage booster breaks the record on its 16th flight

LandSpace to launch methane-propelled rocket

First CHAPEA Crew Begins 378-Day Mission

Martian dunes eroded by a shift in prevailing winds after the planet's last ice age

A bumpy road ahead for Curiosity: Sols 3876-3879

Heading toward a cluster of craters: Sols 3880-3881

Tianzhou 5 reconnects with Tiangong space station

China questions whether there is a new moon race afoot

Three Chinese astronauts return safely to Earth

Scientific experimental samples brought back to Earth, delivered to scientists

Commanding role for Andreas in space

JUPITER 3 arrives at Cape Canaveral for launch

Saudi Space Commission holds several meetings with Chinese space companies

Radio telescope observations confirm unintended radiation from large satellite constellations

Solving the RIME deployment mystery

A quantitative analysis of the in-orbit collision risks

EU 'concerned' about China's curbs on rare metals

iQPS initiates a full-scale study to leverage SkyCompass-1 optical data relay service

Study increases probability of finding water on other worlds by x100

'Sandwich' discovery offers new explanation for planet formation

'Like a mirror': Astronomers identify most reflective exoplanet

Astronomers discover elusive planet responsible for spiral arms around its star

First ultraviolet data collected by ESA's JUICE mission

Unveiling Jupiter's upper atmosphere

ASU study: Jupiter's moon Europa may have had a slow evolution

Juno captures lightning bolts above Jupiter's north pole

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.