Context: Researchers studying the findings of the Solar Orbiter Aircraft, a joint mission by the European Space Agency and the U.S. space agency NASA, recently announced that they have detected picoflare jets from the sun’s outer atmosphere.
About Picoflare jets:
- It is a tiny jet (plasma ejections) of charged particles emanating from the Sun’s outer atmosphere.
- According to the researchers, these charged small particle jets, which are ejected intermittently are a source of the solar wind. This flow is not actually uniform, the ubiquity of the jets suggests that the solar wind from coronal holes might originate as a highly intermittent outflow.
- These widespread yet faint jets, only a few hundred kilometers across, were seen to last between 20 to 100 seconds, achieving speeds of approximately 100 kilometers per second. Their energy appears to be derived from magnetic reconnection.
Significance of Picoflare jets:
- Due to their relatively low kinetic energies, researchers named these structures picoflare jets. Based on their calculations, they suggest that plasma outflows from these numerous, frequent picoflare jets, channeled along the open magnetic field lines of coronal holes, might supply a considerable amount of mass and energy to the solar wind throughout the solar cycle.
- It has significant effects on the large-scale solar system as well as on Earth’s magnetic field and poses risks to satellite electronics.
Solar Orbiter Aircraft
- It is a next-generation solar-observing satellite developed by a collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.
- It was launched in 2020.
- It will provide unprecedented details about the solar system and the images of the sun’s poles while investigating the heliosphere.
- It is equipped with a suite of scientific instruments to observe the Sun up close and provide new insights into its behaviour, including its magnetic fields, solar wind, and how it influences the solar system.
- The outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, is composed of extremely hot plasma. Some of this plasma escapes the Sun’s gravitational pull and flows outward into space, creating the solar wind.
- The solar wind is a stream of charged particles, primarily electrons and protons, that constantly blows away from the Sun and interacts with objects in the solar system, including the Earth.
- It is the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, extending millions of kilometers into space.
- It is composed of extremely hot and tenuous plasma (ionized gas).
- It is visible during a total solar eclipse as a pearly-white halo of light surrounding the dark disk of the Moon.
- It is much hotter than the Sun’s surface, with temperatures reaching millions of degrees Celsius.