Solar Physics: Why Study It?  What can this teach us about the search for life beyond Earth?

An image of a coronal mass ejection from the Sun. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Solar Dynamics Observatory

Universe Today explores the importance of studying impact craters, planetary surfaces, exoplanets, and astronomy, and what these subjects can teach both researchers and the public about the search for life beyond Earth. Here, we’ll discuss the fascinating field of solar physics (also known as heliophysics), including why scientists study it, the benefits and challenges of studying it, and how it might lead us to search for life beyond Earth. What it can teach about, and how prospective students can study solar energy. Physics So, why is it so important to study solar physics?

Professor Maria Kazachenko, a solar astrophysicist and assistant professor in the Department of Astrophysics and Planetary Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder, tells Universe Today, “Solar physics is the study of how our Sun How does it work, and our sun is a star. We must understand. How our home star works for several reasons. First, stars are part of the fabric of our universe. Even we are made of stardust. Second, our Sun provides energy for life and affects our lives here on Earth (space weather, digital security, astronauts). So, to be safe we ​​need to understand our star. After all, the Sun is the only star. “is where we can get high-quality maps of magnetic fields, which define stellar activity. To protect our space and understand the universe.”

Field of Babylonian dates from 1300 BCE, where astronomers documented numerous solar eclipses, and Greek records indicate that the Egyptians became very adept at predicting solar eclipses. Additionally, ancient Chinese astronomers documented a total of 37 solar eclipses between 720 BC and 480 BC, as well as records of observing visible sunspots around 800 BC. Sunspots were first observed using telescopes in 1610 by several international astronomers, including Galileo Galilei, whose drawings are kept to this day.

Currently, solar physics is studied by both ground-based and space-based telescopes and observatories, including the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope located in Hawai’i and NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which That falls within 7.26. million kilometers (4.51 million miles) from the Sun’s surface in September 2023. But with all that history and What are some of the benefits and challenges of studying solar physics?

Professor Kazachenko tells Universe Today that some of the scientific advantages of studying solar physics include “a large number of observations and many science problems to work on; arising from cross-disciplinary research (stellar physics, exoplanet communities)”. with some scientific challenges. The need to use remote sensing, sometimes resulting in misinterpretation of data.

On the professional side, Professor Kazachenko tells Universe Today that some of the benefits include “a small and friendly community, a wide variety of research problems relying on surprising new observations and complex simulations, working on a variety of problems.” capability (instrumentation, space weather). operations, research)” with some professional challenges including finding a permanent job, which she notes is “like everywhere else in science.”

As mentioned, the study of solar physics involves investigation. Which is when interacts with the Earth, particularly our magnetic field, resulting in the beautiful auroras seen at high northern and southern latitudes. Occasionally, the solar wind is strong enough to wreak havoc on satellites and even knock out power grids on Earth’s surface.

This was demonstrated with the Carrington Event on 1–2 September 1859, when fires were reported at telegraph stations around the world, along with several strong aurora sightings. Although this event occurred with Earth’s magnetic field greatly deflecting the incoming solar wind, life on this planet would be doomed without the protection of our magnetic field. So, what can solar physics teach us about the search for life beyond Earth?

“The Sun can tell us about the activity of stars, including flares and which may be important for the creation of life on planets. How often do these flares occur? How strong can they be? Why are some flares explosive (leaving the star) and others confined (retaining the burst plasma on the star)? Why do we mostly observe finite flares on other stars? The Sun can also tell us about the science behind long-term stellar evolution.

Like most scientific fields, solar physics encompasses researchers from a variety of backgrounds, including the aforementioned exoplanet community, but also classical physics, astrophysics, computer science, plasma physics, and fluid dynamics, to name just a few. of the. It is through continued collaborative and innovative efforts from these backgrounds that researchers can study not only our own sun, but the suns of other solar systems throughout the universe. So, what advice can Professor Kazachenko give to incoming students who want to study solar physics?

“Be brave, be passionate, and work hard,” Professor Kazachenko tells Universe Today. “Talk to students and scientists working in the field and don’t be afraid to approach scientists you want to work with.” Work on your math and communication skills.”

As noted, solar eclipses are an important aspect of the study of solar physics, as they have both been observed and documented by numerous civilizations around the world for thousands of years. Eclipses are the holy grail. which occurs when the Moon completely blocks the Sun, gives solar physicists a rare opportunity to observe and study coronal mass injection, which Professor Kazachenko notes is life-giving. can be very important for the creation of

The upcoming total solar eclipse that will cross the United States in a few months will give scientists even more opportunities to study many of the Sun’s attributes, even more so than the 2017 total solar eclipse. For this upcoming eclipse, Professor Kazachenko plans to lead an expedition called “Eclipses en la Frontera” to Eagle Pass, TX with the National Solar Observatory’s Education and Public Outreach team.

“We had such a wonderful time during the annular solar eclipse (in October 2023), so now we’re coming back in totality,” Professor Kazachenko tells Universe Today.

Professor Kazachenko continues, “The solar eclipse on April 8, 2024 is just around the corner. It’s a life-changing experience. Not because I’m a solar physicist, but because it makes you feel like you’re a solar physicist.” are part of the universe. The best place to see it in the US will be in Texas (eg San Antonio, Austin, or Dallas), as it may be cloudy for the rest of the eclipse’s path.”

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Reference: Solar Physics: Why Study It? What can this teach us about the search for life beyond Earth? (2024, February 23) Retrieved February 23, 2024 from https://phys.org/news/2024-02-solar-physics-life-earth.html

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