Public Release: 

Finally, understanding how the sun's spicules are made

American Association for the Advancement of Science


IMAGE: A graphic describing results from Martínez-Sykora et al. This material relates to a paper that appeared in the 23 June 2017, issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper,... view more 

Credit: Carla Schaffer / AAAS

For the first time, researchers have built a model that accurately explains the formation of abundant jets of plasma in the Sun's atmosphere, called spicules. The researchers' results not only resolve the long-standing mystery of how these entities form, but should also help scientists understand how plasma above the surface of the Sun is heated to such high temperatures. The layer of the Sun's atmosphere just above the visible surface contains violently driven jets of plasma called spicules that have been observed for over a century. Spicules occur thousands of times per day, yet their origin is poorly understood. They have been implicated in providing hot plasma to the corona, potentially resolving the long-standing puzzle of why the Sun's outer atmosphere reaches temperatures of millions of degrees. Here, to better grasp how these jets form, Juan Martinez-Sykora and colleagues used state-of-the-art numerical models to develop simulations that spontaneously produced numerous spicules. Critically, they found that the properties of these simulations matched observations of real spicules by the Interface Region Imaging Spectograph and the Swedish Solar Telescope. The researchers were able to determine the physical interactions between magnetic fields and solar plasma that generate spicules, helping to understand our nearest star.


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