The sun's magnetic field is an impressive 10 times more powerful than scientists previously believed.
David Kuridze, a research fellow at Aberystwyth University and a leading authority on using ground-based telescopes to study the sun's corona, spearheaded the research on a particularly powerful solar flare that erupted on Sept. 10, 2017.
Sun's Magnetic Field Much Stronger Than Believed
By observing this specific solar flare, the team was able to determine the most accurate measurement of the sun's magnetic field yet and it is much stronger than previous approximations.
In the study published in the Astrophysical Journal, Kuridze and his team reveal their findings on the solar flare's magnetic field. Due to a combination of favorable conditions and luck, the researchers were able to reach a conclusion with unparalleled accuracy.
It turns out, the sun's magnetic field is 10 times stronger than scientists' originally thought. While this sounds extremely strong, the new measurement puts the magnetic field at the strength of a refrigerator magnet. It's 100 times weaker than a typical MRI scanner, according to a press release from Aberystwyth University.
More than the strength, the accuracy of the research is even more impressive. According to Kuridze, this study marks the first time that scientists have accurately measured the magnetic field of the sun's coronal loops.
Until this study, scientists have been limited by the weak signals from the sun and technological limitations.
A Valuable Finding
The sun's corona, which is the outermost part of the sun's atmosphere and is visible as a ring of light during an eclipse, is 109 times larger than Earth at around 870,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) across. It extends many thousands of miles above the surface.
Not only do the study findings improve scientists' understanding of the sun, but it also allows them to better understand its magnetic field, which has a huge impact on the entire solar system.
The sun's magnetic field drives plenty of events in the solar system, from solar explosions that affect the Earth's auroras to the planet's climate, according to NASA. Solar flares can even knock out man-made infrastructure.
"Everything that happens in the Sun's atmosphere is dominated by the magnetic field, but we have very few measurements of its strength and spatial characteristics", Kuridze explains in a statement.
"These are critical parameters, the most important for the physics of the solar corona. It is a little like trying to understand the Earth's climate without being able to measure its temperature at various geographical locations."