July 12, 2013
A solar tsunami observed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the Japanese Hinode spacecraft has been used to provide the first accurate estimates of the Sun’s magnetic field.
Solar tsunamis are produced by enormous explosions in the Sun’s atmosphere called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). As the CME travels out into space, the tsunami travels across the Sun at speeds of up to 1000 kilometres per second.
Similar to tsunamis on Earth, the shape of solar tsunamis is changed by the environment through which they move. Just as sound travels faster in water than in air, solar tsunamis have a higher speed in regions of stronger magnetic field. This unique feature allowed the team, led by researchers from UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, to measure the Sun’s magnetic field. The results are outlined in a paper soon to be published in the journal Solar Physics.