Radio Emissions Over Sunspots Challenge Models Of Stellar Magnetism

Sustained radio emissions originating from high over a sunspot are getting researchers thinking in new directions. Unlike solar radio bursts — which typically last only minutes or hours — these have persisted for over a week. They resemble auroral radio emissions observed in planetary magnetospheres and some stars, but seeing them from about 40,000 km above a sunspot is something new. They don’t seem tied to solar flare activity, either.

The signals are thought to be the result of electron cyclotron maser (ECM) emissions, which involves how electrons act in converging geometries of magnetic fields. These prolonged emissions challenge existing models and ideas about how solar and stellar magnetic processes unfold, and understanding it better could lead to a re-evaluation of existing astrophysical models. Perhaps even leading to new insights into the behavior of magnetic fields and energetic particles.

This phenomenon was observed from our very own sun, but it has implications for better understanding distant stellar bodies. Speaking of our sun, did you know it is currently in it’s 25th Solar Cycle? Check out that link for a reminder of the things the awesome power of our local star is actually capable of under the right circumstances.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin Saw Through The Stars

We as humans are limited in the ways we can look at things ourselves, and rely on on the different perspectives and insights of others to help make sense of things. All it takes is one person to look at a data set and find something completely different that changes our fundamental perception of the universe.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin discovered that stars are primarily made of hydrogen and helium, at a time when astronomers thought that the Sun and the Earth had no significant elemental differences. She proposed that hydrogen wasn’t only more common, but that it was a million times more common.

This outlandish conclusion was roundly dismissed at the time, and she aquiesced to tone down some of the conclusions in her thesis, until her findings were widely confirmed a few years later. Truly groundbreaking, the discovery of the prevalence of hydrogen in stars paved the way for our current understanding of their role as the furnaces for the heavier elements that we know and love, and indeed are composed of.

Meteorites, Comets, and Bee Orchids

Cecilia Helena Payne was born May 10th, 1900 in Wendover, Buckinghamshire, England. She was one of three children born to Emma and Edward, a lawyer, historian, and musician. Her father died with she was four years old, leaving her mother to raise the family alone. Continue reading “Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin Saw Through The Stars”