DOE News
    Doe Science news source
    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2018-01-30 13:05:05
    • Article ID: 688693

    Stellar magnetism: What's behind the most brilliant lights in the sky?

    • Credit: UW-Madison

      Top: Electron movement in solar wind parallels magnetic field direction. Bottom: After magnetic reconnection, the electrons lose their alignment with Earth’s magnetic field.

    • Credit: David Tenenbaum/UW-Madison

      Jan Egedal, professor of physics at UW-Madison who lead an exploration of magnetic reconnection, stands beside a chamber used for experiments in that exotic phenomenon. Magnetic reconnection seems to be involved in some of the most violent explosions in the universe; the recent study was the clearest view of the magnetic reconnection ever measured in space. The results “blew my mind,” he says.

    MADISON – Space physicists at University of Wisconsin-Madison have just released unprecedented detail on a bizarre phenomenon that powers the northern lights, solar flares and coronal mass ejections (the biggest explosions in our solar system).

    The data on so-called “magnetic reconnection” came from a quartet of new spacecraft that measure radiation and magnetic fields in high Earth orbit.  

    “We’re looking at the best picture yet of magnetic reconnection in space,” says Jan Egedal, a professor of physics and senior author of a study in Physical Review Letters. Magnetic reconnection is difficult to describe, but it can be loosely defined as the merger of magnetic fields that releases an astonishing amount of energy.

    Magnetic reconnection remains mysterious, especially since it “breaks the standard law” governing charged particles, or plasma, Egedal says.

    Egedal and colleagues studied recordings from Oct. 15, 2016, when the Magnetosphere Multiscale satellite passed through the point where the solar wind meets Earth’s magnetic field. “Our data clearly show that electrons suddenly cease to follow magnetic fields and zoom off in another direction, corkscrewing and turning. That begs for explanation,” Egedal says.

    The activity confirmed the theoretical descriptions of magnetic reconnection. But it violated the standard law governing the behavior of plasmas – clouds of charged particles that comprise, for example, the solar wind. “The ‘plasma frozen-in law’ says electrons and magnetic fields have to move together always, and suddenly that does not apply here,” says Egedal. “It’s the clearest example ever to be measured in space, and it blew my mind.”

     “Our equations tell you reconnection cannot happen, but it does,” Egedal says, “and our results show us which factors need to be added to the equations. When the law is violated, we can get an explosion. Even in Earth’s moderate magnetic field, reconnection from an area just 10 kilometers across can change the motion of plasma thousands of kilometers distant."

    In the 1970s, telescopes orbiting above earth’s sheltering magnetic field and atmosphere began returning data on X-rays and other non-visible types of radiation. Rather quickly, the age-old image of the sky as a quiet curtain of stars was yanked aside, revealing a zoo of weird objects, powerful beams and cataclysmic explosions.

    All of them needed to be explained, and theorists began to focus on magnetic reconnection, which had been sketched out in 1956. By now, magnetic reconnection has been linked to:

    • Black holes, ultra-dense objects with intense gravity that prohibits even light from leaving.
    • Pulsars, which rotate hundreds of times a second and emit piercing beacons of light.
    • Supernovas, which release energy visible across the galaxies when they explode.
    • Active galactic nuclei, super-bright candles that are visible from billions of light years distance. 

    “Almost everything we know about the universe comes from the light that reaches us,” says Cary Forest, also a professor of physics at UW-Madison. “When one of these fantastic space telescopes sees a massive burst of X-rays that lasts just tens of milliseconds coming from an object in a galaxy far away, this giant burst of energy at such a great distance may reflect a massive reconnection event.”

    But there’s more, Forest adds. “When neutron stars merge and give off X-rays, that’s magnetic reconnection. With these advanced orbiting telescopes, just about everything that’s interesting, that goes off suddenly, probably has some major reconnection element at its root.”

    Magnetic reconnection also underlies the auroras at both poles, Egedal says. When reconnection occurs on the sunward side of Earth, as was seen in the recent study, “it changes the magnetic energy in the system. This energy migrates to the night side, and the same thing happens there, accelerating particles to the poles, forming auroras.”

    Beyond offering insight into the role of magnetic reconnection in celestial explosions, eruptions and extraordinary emissions of energy, the observations have a practical side in terms of space weather: explosions of charged matter from the sun can damage satellites and even electrical equipment on the ground. After a solar flare in 1989, for example, the entire power system in Quebec went dark after it picked up a pulse of energy from space. “Across the United States from coast to coast, over 200 power grid problems erupted within minutes of the start of the March 13 magnetic storm,” NASA wrote.

    Today, Forest notes, modern utility systems contain switches to interrupt the loop of conductors that could become antennas that pick up a problematic pulse from the sun.

     “If we understand reconnection better, perhaps we can improve space weather forecasts,” says Egedal. “We can look at the sun to predict what may happen in two to four days, which is how long the wind from the sun takes to reach Earth.”

     — David Tenenbaum, 608-265-8549, djtenenb@wisc.edu

    The work was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) GEM award 1405166 and NASA grant NNX14AL38G. Simulations used NASA HEC and LANL IC resources.

     

     

    • other-fb
    • other-tw
    X
    X
    X
    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters
    New Molecular Blueprint Advances Our Understanding of Photosynthesis

    New Molecular Blueprint Advances Our Understanding of Photosynthesis

    Researchers at Berkeley Lab have used one of the most advanced microscopes in the world to reveal the structure of a large protein complex crucial to photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into cellular energy. The finding will allow scientists to explore for the first time how the complex functions and could have implications for the production of a variety of bioproducts, including plastic alternatives and biofuels.

    Newly Discovered Design Rules Lead to Better Fuel Cell Catalyst

    Newly Discovered Design Rules Lead to Better Fuel Cell Catalyst

    Optimized oxides made from common metals use less energy and show the potential of new design approach.

    Too Close for Comfort: Nanoparticles Need Some Space to Transfer Energy

    Too Close for Comfort: Nanoparticles Need Some Space to Transfer Energy

    Particle crowding interferes with moving energy efficiently along promising molecular chains.

    Atomic Snapshots of Photosynthesis

    Atomic Snapshots of Photosynthesis

    Scientists catch details with atomic resolution, potentially helping design systems to use sunlight and water to produce fuels.

    Newly isolated human gut bacterium reveals possible connection to depression

    Newly isolated human gut bacterium reveals possible connection to depression

    Researchers have established a correlation between depression and a group of neurotransmitter-producing bacteria found in the human gut.

    Chemicals Can Change Their Identity, Thanks to the Liquids Where They Reside

    Chemicals Can Change Their Identity, Thanks to the Liquids Where They Reside

    Far from being a mere spectator, solvents can play a larger role in chemical reactions, likely including those used in energy storage and biology.

    ORNL Teams with Los Alamos, EPB to Demonstrate Next-Generation Grid Security Tech

    ORNL Teams with Los Alamos, EPB to Demonstrate Next-Generation Grid Security Tech

    A team of researchers from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge and Los Alamos National Laboratories has partnered with EPB, a Chattanooga utility and telecommunications company, to demonstrate the effectiveness of metro-scale quantum key distribution (QKD) as a means of secure communication for the nation's electricity suppliers. This initial milestone is part of the team's three-year project focused on next-generation grid security.

    Sophisticated Blood Analysis Provides New Clues About Ebola, Treatment Avenues

    Sophisticated Blood Analysis Provides New Clues About Ebola, Treatment Avenues

    A detailed analysis of blood samples from Ebola patients is providing clues about the progression of the effects of the virus in patients and potential treatment pathways. The findings point to a critical role for a molecular pathway that relies on the common nutrient choline, as well as the importance of cellular bodies known as microvesicles.

    Controlling Charge Flow by Managing Electron Holes

    Controlling Charge Flow by Managing Electron Holes

    Researchers watch and measure in real time charge dynamics between layers of oxide materials, offering insights into solar cells.

    Researchers use X-rays to understand the flaws of battery fast charging

    Researchers use X-rays to understand the flaws of battery fast charging

    Argonne researchers used the laboratory's Advanced Photon Source to image a battery as it was quickly charged and discharged, allowing for the observation of lithium plating behavior that can inhibit the battery's long-term function.


    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters
    DOE launches its first lithium-ion battery recycling R&D center: ReCell

    DOE launches its first lithium-ion battery recycling R&D center: ReCell

    The launch of the Energy Department's first lithium-ion battery recycling center, called the ReCell Center, will help the United States grow a globally competitive recycling industry and reduce our reliance on foreign sources of battery materials.

    James Wishart Awarded Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal

    James Wishart Awarded Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal

    James Wishart, a chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been awarded the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medal by the Polish Radiation Research Society (PRRS). The award recognizes his distinguished achievements in the field of radiation chemistry and his long-lasting and productive interactions with Polish scientists.

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition

    Twenty-eight teams from 17 Bay Area high schools faced off Feb. 9 in the SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl, a series of fast-paced question-and-answer matches that test knowledge in biology, chemistry, physics, earth and space sciences, energy and math. The competition is hosted annually by the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

    UNLV Among 11 Teams Worldwide To Compete in 2020 Solar Decathlon

    UNLV Among 11 Teams Worldwide To Compete in 2020 Solar Decathlon

    Students to build sustainable home of healing for military veterans for U.S. Department of Energy contest; UNLV competed in 2013 and 2017.

    Three Brookhaven Scientists Named Highly Cited Researchers

    Three Brookhaven Scientists Named Highly Cited Researchers

    Three scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have been named to the 2018 Highly Cited Researchers List, which recognizes influential researchers whose work ranks in the top one percent of the world's most-cited scientific papers. Brookhaven's Radoslav Adzic, Mark Hybertsen, and Xiao-Qing Yang are among only 4,000 researchers from around the world whom achieved the distinction in 2018.

    New tools in transportation

    New tools in transportation

    A new version of the AFLEET Tool from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory calculates and compares the costs and environmental benefits of a broad range of alternative fuel technologies. Covering 18 fuel/vehicle technologies, AFLEET Online offers an easy-to-use web-based platform.

    Remote-Control Plasma Physics Experiment is Named One of Top Webcams of 2018

    Remote-Control Plasma Physics Experiment is Named One of Top Webcams of 2018

    EarthCam names remote-control experiment at PPPL one of 25 most interesting Webcams of 2018.

    Jefferson Lab Scientist Awarded Distinguished Lectureship

    Jefferson Lab Scientist Awarded Distinguished Lectureship

    Cynthia Keppel, leader of Jefferson Lab's Halls A&C, has been honored with the APS 2019 Distinguished Lectureship Award on the Applications of Physics.

    Journal Special Issues Honor Chemists Radoslav Adzic and Jan Hrbek

    Journal Special Issues Honor Chemists Radoslav Adzic and Jan Hrbek

    The Journal of the Electrochemical Society and Surface Science recognized the contributions of Brookhaven Lab chemists Radoslav Adzic and Jan Hrbek to electrocatalysis and catalysis.

    Argonne scientist elected as SAE Fellow

    Argonne scientist elected as SAE Fellow

    Scientist Michael Wang from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory was recently inducted as a Fellow of the professional engineering organization SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). The organization reserves this prestigious grade of membership for thosewho have made significant contributions to mobility technology and have demonstrated leadership in their field.


    • Filters

    • × Clear Filters
    Newly Discovered Design Rules Lead to Better Fuel Cell Catalyst

    Newly Discovered Design Rules Lead to Better Fuel Cell Catalyst

    Optimized oxides made from common metals use less energy and show the potential of new design approach.

    Too Close for Comfort: Nanoparticles Need Some Space to Transfer Energy

    Too Close for Comfort: Nanoparticles Need Some Space to Transfer Energy

    Particle crowding interferes with moving energy efficiently along promising molecular chains.

    Atomic Snapshots of Photosynthesis

    Atomic Snapshots of Photosynthesis

    Scientists catch details with atomic resolution, potentially helping design systems to use sunlight and water to produce fuels.

    Chemicals Can Change Their Identity, Thanks to the Liquids Where They Reside

    Chemicals Can Change Their Identity, Thanks to the Liquids Where They Reside

    Far from being a mere spectator, solvents can play a larger role in chemical reactions, likely including those used in energy storage and biology.

    Controlling Charge Flow by Managing Electron Holes

    Controlling Charge Flow by Managing Electron Holes

    Researchers watch and measure in real time charge dynamics between layers of oxide materials, offering insights into solar cells.

    Controls on Nitrogen Nutrient Availability in the Arctic Tundra

    Controls on Nitrogen Nutrient Availability in the Arctic Tundra

    Soil moisture is key to determining plant growth and nutrient cycling in complex tundra landscapes.

    Hydrogels Change Water and Solute Dynamics

    Hydrogels Change Water and Solute Dynamics

    Hydrogel pores can modify the molecular-level motion of water and dissolved ions.

    Coupling Computer Models Shows Interactions among River Water, Groundwater, and Land Surfaces

    Coupling Computer Models Shows Interactions among River Water, Groundwater, and Land Surfaces

    Computer model offers detailed view of water cycling and complex Earth system dynamics.

    Viruses Must Overcome Challenges to Infect Bacteria in Nature

    Viruses Must Overcome Challenges to Infect Bacteria in Nature

    Molecular studies show phage-host interactions are more complicated than most laboratory studies suggest.

    The Subtle, but Significant, Role of Surfaces in Ion Stickiness

    The Subtle, but Significant, Role of Surfaces in Ion Stickiness

    Direct interactions dominate ion adsorption to aqueous graphene, a process central to vital processes in energy technology.


    Spotlight

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition
    Wednesday February 13, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Lynbrook High wins 2019 SLAC Regional Science Bowl competition

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Equipping the next generation for a technological revolution
    Thursday January 24, 2019, 01:05 PM

    Equipping the next generation for a technological revolution

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Chemistry intern inspired by Argonne's real-world science
    Friday January 18, 2019, 05:05 PM

    Chemistry intern inspired by Argonne's real-world science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Chasing a supernova
    Friday January 18, 2019, 04:05 PM

    Chasing a supernova

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Argonne intern streamlines the beamline
    Tuesday January 08, 2019, 02:05 PM

    Argonne intern streamlines the beamline

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices
    Thursday October 11, 2018, 04:00 PM

    Research on Light-Matter Interaction Could Lead to Improved Electronic and Optoelectronic Devices

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Innovating Our Energy Future
    Wednesday October 03, 2018, 07:05 PM

    Innovating Our Energy Future

    Oregon State University, College of Engineering

    Physics graduate student takes her thesis research to a Department of Energy national lab
    Tuesday October 02, 2018, 03:05 PM

    Physics graduate student takes her thesis research to a Department of Energy national lab

    University of Alabama at Birmingham

    Friday September 21, 2018, 01:05 PM

    "Model" students enjoy Argonne campus life

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Writing Code for a More Skilled and Diverse STEM Workforce
    Thursday September 06, 2018, 01:05 PM

    Writing Code for a More Skilled and Diverse STEM Workforce

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    New graduate student summer school launches at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
    Tuesday September 04, 2018, 11:30 AM

    New graduate student summer school launches at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

    The Gridlock State
    Friday August 31, 2018, 06:05 PM

    The Gridlock State

    California State University (CSU) Chancellor's Office

    Meet Jasmine Hatcher and Trishelle Copeland-Johnson
    Friday August 31, 2018, 02:05 PM

    Meet Jasmine Hatcher and Trishelle Copeland-Johnson

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School
    Friday August 24, 2018, 11:05 AM

    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Students affected by Hurricane Maria bring their research to SLAC
    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 01:05 PM

    Students affected by Hurricane Maria bring their research to SLAC

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Brookhaven Lab Pays Tribute to 2018 Summer Interns
    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 10:05 AM

    Brookhaven Lab Pays Tribute to 2018 Summer Interns

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Changing How Buildings Are Made
    Monday August 20, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Changing How Buildings Are Made

    Washington University in St. Louis

    CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019
    Thursday August 16, 2018, 12:05 PM

    CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019

    California State University, Monterey Bay

    Department of Energy Invests $64 Million in Advanced Nuclear Technology
    Friday July 20, 2018, 03:00 PM

    Department of Energy Invests $64 Million in Advanced Nuclear Technology

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Professor Miao Yu Named the Priti and Mukesh Chatter '82 Career Development Professor
    Thursday July 19, 2018, 05:00 PM

    Professor Miao Yu Named the Priti and Mukesh Chatter '82 Career Development Professor

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    2018 RHIC & AGS Annual Users' Meeting: 'Illuminating the QCD Landscape'
    Tuesday July 03, 2018, 11:05 AM

    2018 RHIC & AGS Annual Users' Meeting: 'Illuminating the QCD Landscape'

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Argonne welcomes <em>The Martian</em> author Andy Weir
    Friday June 29, 2018, 06:05 PM

    Argonne welcomes The Martian author Andy Weir

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Creating STEM Knowledge and Innovations to Solve Global Issues Like Water, Food, and Energy
    Monday June 18, 2018, 09:55 AM

    Creating STEM Knowledge and Innovations to Solve Global Issues Like Water, Food, and Energy

    Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA)

    Professor Emily Liu Receives $1.8 Million DoE Award for Solar Power Systems Research
    Friday June 15, 2018, 10:00 AM

    Professor Emily Liu Receives $1.8 Million DoE Award for Solar Power Systems Research

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Celebrating 40 years of empowerment in science
    Thursday June 07, 2018, 03:05 PM

    Celebrating 40 years of empowerment in science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Introducing Graduate Students Across the Globe to Photon Science
    Monday May 07, 2018, 10:30 AM

    Introducing Graduate Students Across the Globe to Photon Science

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Students from Massachusetts and Washington Win DOE's 28th National Science Bowl(r)
    Wednesday May 02, 2018, 04:05 PM

    Students from Massachusetts and Washington Win DOE's 28th National Science Bowl(r)

    Department of Energy, Office of Science

    The Race for Young Scientific Minds
    Thursday April 12, 2018, 07:05 PM

    The Race for Young Scientific Minds

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Q&A: Al Ashley Reflects on His Efforts to Diversify SLAC and Beyond
    Wednesday March 14, 2018, 02:05 PM

    Q&A: Al Ashley Reflects on His Efforts to Diversify SLAC and Beyond

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Insights on Innovation in Energy, Humanitarian Aid Highlight UVA Darden's Net Impact Week
    Thursday February 15, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Insights on Innovation in Energy, Humanitarian Aid Highlight UVA Darden's Net Impact Week

    University of Virginia Darden School of Business

    Ivy League Graduate, Writer and Activist with Dyslexia Visits CSUCI to Reframe the Concept of Learning Disabilities
    Friday February 09, 2018, 11:05 AM

    Ivy League Graduate, Writer and Activist with Dyslexia Visits CSUCI to Reframe the Concept of Learning Disabilities

    California State University, Channel Islands

    Photographer Adam Nadel Selected as Fermilab's New Artist-in-Residence for 2018
    Wednesday January 17, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Photographer Adam Nadel Selected as Fermilab's New Artist-in-Residence for 2018

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)

    Fermilab Computing Partners with Argonne, Local Schools for Hour of Code
    Wednesday January 17, 2018, 12:05 PM

    Fermilab Computing Partners with Argonne, Local Schools for Hour of Code

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)

    Q&A: Sam Webb Teaches X-Ray Science from a Remote Classroom
    Wednesday December 20, 2017, 01:05 PM

    Q&A: Sam Webb Teaches X-Ray Science from a Remote Classroom

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    The Future of Today's Electric Power Systems
    Monday December 18, 2017, 01:05 PM

    The Future of Today's Electric Power Systems

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Supporting the Development of Offshore Wind Power Plants
    Monday December 18, 2017, 12:05 PM

    Supporting the Development of Offshore Wind Power Plants

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    Stairway to Science
    Tuesday October 03, 2017, 01:05 PM

    Stairway to Science

    Argonne National Laboratory

    After-School Energy Rush
    Thursday September 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

    After-School Energy Rush

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Bringing Diversity Into Computational Science Through Student Outreach
    Thursday September 28, 2017, 10:05 AM

    Bringing Diversity Into Computational Science Through Student Outreach

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    From Science to Finance: SLAC Summer Interns Forge New Paths in STEM
    Thursday September 21, 2017, 03:05 PM

    From Science to Finance: SLAC Summer Interns Forge New Paths in STEM

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Students Discuss 'Cosmic Opportunities' at 45th Annual SLAC Summer Institute
    Thursday September 07, 2017, 02:05 PM

    Students Discuss 'Cosmic Opportunities' at 45th Annual SLAC Summer Institute

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

    Binghamton University Opens $70 Million Smart Energy Building
    Thursday August 31, 2017, 05:05 PM

    Binghamton University Opens $70 Million Smart Energy Building

    Binghamton University, State University of New York

    Widening Horizons for High Schoolers with Code
    Wednesday August 23, 2017, 05:05 PM

    Widening Horizons for High Schoolers with Code

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement
    Saturday May 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

    ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science
    Monday May 15, 2017, 01:05 PM

    ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory





    Showing results

    0-4 Of 2215