Science & Tech

Discovering Fiery Rain on the Sun with Solar Shooting Stars

  • Astronomers have discovered meteor-like streaks on the surface of the Sun, distinguishing them from shooting stars seen on Earth.
  • These solar shooting stars, which were discovered during a phenomena known as coronal rain, provide important insights into the Sun’s complicated dynamics.

Observing Solar Shooting Stars and Coronal Rain

  • Difference between Earthly Shooting Stars: While shooting stars on Earth are space rocks or dust bits that burn up in our atmosphere, solar shooting stars arise as a result of coronal rain.
  • Coronal rain is a condensation process that involves highly hot material from the Sun’s corona. It produces dense clumps of plasma that, due to the Sun’s great gravity, drop back to the surface.
  • Solar Orbiter (SolO) of the European Space Agency: The SolO spacecraft collected high-resolution photos of solar shooting stars and monitored the heating and compression of plasma beneath them.

Findings about such stars:

  • For the first time, the Solar Orbiter saw the impacts of solar shooting stars, revealing powerful bursts of brightness, upward movement of stellar material, and shock waves that heat up the Sun’s corona.
  • Solar shooting stars, unlike Earthly shooting stars, lack dazzling tails due to tremendous magnetic fields in the Sun’s corona removing gas off falling clusters.
  • Solar meteors are difficult to observe due to the impact of magnetic fields, and their exact nature was unknown until these latest findings.

Insights and Implications

  • Solving the Corona Mysteries: Researchers believe that the finding of solar shooting stars may help explain why the corona, the Sun’s outermost atmosphere, is hotter than the layers beneath it. Astronomers are perplexed since standard solar models forecast rising temperatures closer to the Sun’s core.
  • Coronal Rain Formation: Coronal showers are caused by localised temperature dips, which cause solar plasma to condense into dense lumps that fall at speeds of up to 220,000 miles per hour to the Sun’s colder surface, known as the photosphere.
  • The Solar Orbiter’s close proximity to the Sun of 30 million miles allowed for extensive observations of these phenomena, which was closer than Mercury’s orbit.
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