Des chercheurs de l’Institut de technologie du New Jersey (NJIT, États-Unis) viennent de localiser l’endroit où les particules sont accélérées au cœur des éruptions solaires. © Kittiphat, Adobe Stock

A particle accelerator at the heart of a solar flare

Extremely violent eruptions regularly occur on the surface of our sun. A flash of light accompanied by the ejection of particles approaching the speed of light. And researchers have finally found the place where these particles are accelerated.

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[EN VIDÉO] A huge solar flare like we’ve never seen before
This Tuesday, February 15, 2022, the space telescope called Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) on board Solar Orbiter (ESA, NASA) recorded a huge solar flare. For the first time, he was able to capture the entire solar disk and the plasma cloud ejected by the eruption at an altitude of up to 3.5 million kilometers in the same image. © ESA

That solar flares are extremely violent. They unleash the equivalent of a hundred billion nuclear bombs at once. But for a long time the physicist have struggled to understand how they manage to hurl particles at our earth speeds close to the speed of light. To date and these works by a New Jersey Institute of Technology team (NJIT, USA).

By analyzing a powerful solar flare that occurred in 2017 — an X-class flare — researchers were able to pinpoint the exact location where charged particles are being accelerated. Right at the top of the flare’s brightest point. In a region that astronomers Name the cusp region.

Researchers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT, USA) show how effective a solar flare is as a particle accelerator. On the right, the extreme ultraviolet flare (yellow) and the location where most of the accelerated electrons were detected (blue). On the left the distributions of thermal (red) and accelerated (blue) electrons. Almost all of the electrons in the hump region above the flared arc (white outlines) have been accelerated to many times their original thermal energy. © NJIT, CSTR; NASA SDO, AIA

An incredibly efficient process

It was the images from the solar array in the Owens Valley (USA) that allowed the researchers to map the plasma involved in the eruption and follow its evolution second by second. Discovering that it’s in the tip area where the plasma is converted into electrons high energy. After all, a region twice the size of our planet. Much more than the models suggest. And the conversion is incredibly efficient. Effective… 100%!

This work could be used for particle physicistto study phenomena they cannot reproduce on Earth. They could also help qualify the potential impact of the events meteorology spatial. More data is needed to refine the results. Studies in particular solar flares less strong, but much more common.

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