Research highlight

Physics: First high-resolution images of a solar flux rope

Nature Communications

April 29, 2015

The evolution and structure of a magnetic flux rope in the sun’s atmosphere, accompanied by a solar flare, has been observed with high-resolution and is described in a paper in Nature Communications. Flux ropes are twisted groups of magnetic fields that writhe around a common axis and burst from the sun.

Twisting solar magnetic structures are implicated in solar eruptions and coronal mass ejections due to their instability and underlying currents. The low-resolution of available images of these structures has hampered efforts to understand their evolution and how they may be involved in solar eruptions that can have adverse space weather effects.

Haimin Wang and colleagues now report high-resolution observations of a flaring, twisted flux rope recorded by the 1.6m New Solar Telescope at Big Bear Solar Observatory. They describe an S-shaped bundle of magnetic fields from which a set of loops peel off and grow upward into a multi-stranded flux rope within two minutes. Two flare ribbons also appear at the point where the rope joins the solar atmosphere. This study shows a magnetic flux rope in unprecedented detail and brings us closer to understanding their initiation and how they may be related to solar eruptions.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms8008

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