Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) are starting to unpack the mechanics behind the generation of solar coronal loops, otherwise known as solar flares.
A recent article posted to the Caltech website details the work of Paul Bellan, a professor of applied physics at the school, and his colleagues. To simulate natural solar flares in the laboratory, Bellan built a vacuum chamber with twin electrodes inside. Then, Bellan and the team charged a capacitor with a massive amount of energy before discharging it through the electrodes to create a miniature solar corona loop.
The resulting loops are small, only about 20 centimeters in length and 1 centimeter in diameter. But the lab-produced loops are structurally identical to naturally generated solar flares.
Interestingly, the resulting loops do not appear to be a single structure but an assemblage of braided strands similar to a heavy-duty rope, which breaks apart strand by strand under pressure and generate the energetic particles and x-ray bursts associated with solar flares.
A more technical rendering of the Caltech team’s research can be found in the article, “Generation of laboratory nanoflares from multiple braided plasma loops,” published in the journal Nature Astronomy.