We've long seen the results of solar flares on Earth, but haven't been able to predict when they'll strike next. New research released last week has given us a better understanding of solar weather. The massive, looping jets of superheated gas that erupt from the sun are driven by giant magnetic structures that extend out beyond the sun itself.

Using the Extreme-Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph mounted on the Hinode spacecraft, astronomers pinpointed the pressure fluctuations in the immense magnetic fields that send the gases spewing out into the sun's corona. In a press release, Dr. Michelle Murray of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London had this to say:

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.


Understanding solar weather patterns will be vital when more humans are living in space, since that will give us a shot at predicting the solar flares and fountains that give off dangerous amounts of radiation.Photo by Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory.

New Views On The Sun's Startling Magnetic Fountains. [Science Daily]