Magnetic fields in sun rise at 500 kilometers per hour

New estimate is lower than previous

magnetic flares

RISE UP  Coils of magnetism that erupt from the sun, seen in this false color ultraviolet image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, are pushed up in parcels of gas, a new study suggests.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

About 20,000 kilometers beneath the sun’s surface, magnetic fields rise no faster than about 500 kilometers per hour. That speed (roughly one-third of previous estimates) is about the same speed that gas rises and falls within the sun, implying that moving parcels of gas help steer magnetic fields toward the surface, researchers report July 13 in Science Advances.

Aaron Birch of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen, Germany, and colleagues estimated the speed by combining observations of the sun’s surface with computer simulations of how gas moves within the hot orb. By studying the sun’s inner workings, researchers hope to understand what drives sunspots and flares — the blemishes and eruptions triggered by magnetic fields punching through the surface. 

Christopher Crockett is an Associate News Editor. He was formerly the astronomy writer from 2014 to 2017, and he has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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