Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sunspots' Secrets Unraveling

For a team of scientists from the University of Hawaii and the National Solar Observatory, Sacramento Peak, there is no more fitting place to observe sunspots than Sunspot, New Mexico. Using a bypass approach, the astronomers measured how much molecular hydrogen (H2) — a form of hydrogen normally associated with cooler places than the Sun’s scorching surface — exists in sunspots’ centers. The team’s detection of H2 inside sunspots, a first in solar astronomy, may help explain the behavior of magnetic fields inside the dark phenomena.

Active Region 10030
Astronomers using the Swedish 1-meter Solar Telescope imaged Active Region 10030 (above) on 15 July 2002. A new study suggests that the formation of molecular hydrogen in spots' centers may encourage the superstrong magnetic fields detected in such phenomena.
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
The presence of H2 inside sunspots has eluded scientists for many decades. Since the 1970s scientists have observed H2 in areas above sunspots using spacecraft, but they were never able to observe the molecule inside the spots themselves. Because H2 existed above sunspots it was a pretty good bet that it was also in the spots’ cooler centers, called umbrae, says coauthor Sarah Jaeggli (now at Montana State University).
MORE: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/Sunspots-Secrets-Unraveling-139212143.html


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