London: For the first time, astronomers
have found that the magnetic field in the outer atmosphere of
the Sun produces eerie musical harmonies -- a discovery that
could provide new ways of understanding and predicting solar
flares before they happen.
Scientists at the University of Sheffield found that
huge magnetic loops that have been observed coiling away from
the outer layer of the Sun`s atmosphere -- known as coronal
loops -- vibrate like strings on a musical instrument.
In other cases they behave more like sound waves as
they travel through a wind instrument.
Using satellite images of these loops, which can be
over 60,000 miles long, the scientists were able to recreate
the sound by turning the visible vibrations into noises and
speeding up the frequency so it is audible to the human ear,
the Telegraph reported.
"It was strangely beautiful and exciting to hear these
noises for the first time from such a large and powerful
source," said Prof Robertus von Fay-Siebenbrgen, head of the
solar physics research group at Sheffield University.
"It is a sort of music as it has harmonics.
"It is providing us with a new way of learning about
the sun and giving us a new insight into the physics that goes
on at in the sun`s outer layers where temperatures reach
millions of degrees," Fay-Siebenbrgen said.
According to scientists, the coronal loops are thought
to be involved in the production of solar flares that fling
highly charged particles out into space, creating a phenomenon
known as space weather.
When the sun`s activity, and thus solar flare
production, increases, the resulting "space storm" can have
catastrophic results here on earth, destroying electronic
equipment, overheating power grids and damaging satellites,
Last week, NASA warned that the sun`s activity is
starting to increase following an extended period of low
activity and is on course to throw out unprecedented levels of
magnetic energy into the solar system by 2013.
Prof Fay-Siebenbrgen said that studying the "music of
the sun" would provide new ways of understanding and
predicting solar flares before they happen.
The coronal loops vibrate from side to side because
they are "plucked" rather like guitar strings by the blast
waves from explosions on the surface of the sun.
The scientists also found the loops vibrate backwards
and forwards in a way that mimics the acoustic waves in a wind
"These loops are oscillating like the strings on a
guitar or the air in a wind instrument. Over time the waves
die away and that is telling us new things about the physics
in the sun`s atmosphere."
Prof Fay-Siebenbrgen`s research has been made public
as the University of Sheffield launches a new project, called
Project Sunshine, aimed at finding new ways to harness and
understand the power of the sun.