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Archive for May 28, 2013

Researchers Explain Magnetic Field Misbehavior In Solar Flares: The Culprit Is Turbulence

May 28, 2013 2 comments

Credit: NASA/SDO

Credit: NASA/SDO

When a solar flare filled with charged particles erupts from the sun, its magnetic fields sometime break a widely accepted rule of physics. The flux-freezing theorem dictates that the magnetic lines of force should flow away in lock-step with the particles, whole and unbroken. Instead, the lines sometimes break apart and quickly reconnect in a way that has mystified astrophysicists.

But in a paper published in the May 23 issue of the journal Nature, an interdisciplinary research team led by a Johns Hopkins mathematical physicist says it has found a key to the mystery. The culprit, the group proposed, is turbulence—the same sort of violent disorder that can jostle a passenger jet when it occurs in the atmosphere. Using complex computer modeling to mimic what happens to magnetic fields when they encounter turbulence within a solar flare, the researchers built their case, explaining why the usual rule did not apply.

“The flux-freezing theorem often explains things beautifully,” said Gregory Eyink, a Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics professor who was lead author of the Nature study. “But in other instances, it fails miserably. We wanted to figure out why this failure occurs.”

Full Story: http://releases.jhu.edu/2013/05/22/researchers-explain-magnetic-field-misbehavior-in-solar-flares-the-culprit-is-turbulence/

A Hidden Population Of Exotic Neutron Stars

May 28, 2013 2 comments

When a massive star runs out of fuel, its core collapses to form a neutron star, an ultradense object about 10 to 15 miles wide. The gravitational energy released in this process blows the outer layers away in a supernova explosion and leaves the neutron star behind.

Most neutron stars are spinning rapidly – a few times a second – but a small fraction have a relatively low spin rate of once every few seconds, while generating occasional large blasts of X-rays. Because the only plausible source for the energy emitted in these outbursts is the magnetic energy stored in the star, these objects are called “magnetars.”

Most magnetars have extremely high magnetic fields on their surface that are ten to a thousand times stronger than for the average neutron star. New observations show that the magnetar known as SGR 0418+5729 (SGR 0418 for short) doesn’t fit that pattern. It has a surface magnetic field similar to that of mainstream neutron stars.

“We have found that SGR 0418 has a much lower surface magnetic field than any other magnetar,” said Nanda Rea of the Institute of Space Science in Barcelona, Spain. “This has important consequences for how we think neutron stars evolve in time, and for our understanding of supernova explosions.”

Full Story: http://chandra.si.edu/press/13_releases/press_052313.html

Detection Of The Cosmic Gamma Ray Horizon Measures All The Light In The Universe Since The Big Bang


How much light has been emitted by all galaxies since the cosmos began? After all, almost every photon (particle of light) from ultraviolet to far infrared wavelengths ever radiated by all galaxies that ever existed throughout cosmic history is still speeding through the Universe today. If we could carefully measure the number and energy (wavelength) of all those photons—not only at the present time, but also back in time—we might learn important secrets about the nature and evolution of the Universe, including how similar or different ancient galaxies were compared to the galaxies we see today.

That bath of ancient and young photons suffusing the Universe today is called the extragalactic background light (EBL). An accurate measurement of the EBL is as fundamental to cosmology as measuring the heat radiation left over from the Big Bang (the cosmic microwave background) at radio wavelengths. A new paper, called “Detection of the Cosmic γ-Ray Horizon from Multiwavelength Observations of Blazars,” by Alberto Dominguez and six coauthors, just published today by the Astrophysical Journal—based on observations spanning wavelengths from radio waves to very energetic gamma rays, obtained from several NASA spacecraft and several ground-based telescopes—describes the best measurement yet of the evolution of the EBL over the past 5 billion years.

Full Story: http://hipacc.ucsc.edu/PressRelease/CGRH.html