Tiny Sun in a Jar Sheds Light on Solar Flare Research


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have the sun in a jar? Seth Putterman and his colleagues have made this possible. In this blog post, we will explore the amazing research they have done to create a miniature version of our sun, and the implications it has for our understanding of space weather.

The incredible journey of discovery began with studying the behavior of plasma for national security. Putterman soon realized that the same plasma physics applied to our sun. With the help of colleagues, he created a 1.2-inch glass ball filled with plasma, which they used to model processes like those that create solar flares. This study was published in Physical Review Letters, and it explains the steps they made to influence modeling for space weather warnings.

So, how did they do it? The sun is made up of rotating, electrically charged gas particles, and the team started by putting some partially ionized sulfur gas inside a glass bulb. Then, they bombarded it with low-frequency microwaves to excite the gas, heating it up to about 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The microwaves created a sound wave that exerted a pressure that caused the hot gas to contract. This sound wave pressure created an acoustic gravity that caused the fluid to move as if it were within the spherical gravity field of the sun. This generated plasma convection, a process in which warm fluid rises and cooler, denser fluid sinks to the core of the glass ball.

The implications of this research are far-reaching. It can help us to better understand solar flares and the release of high-speed plasma blobs that could cause havoc with satellites in orbit and electricity grids on the ground. It can also tell us something fundamental about the sun’s behavior, such as the 11-year cycle in which the inner convection zone of the sun gets more active.

Seth Putterman and his colleagues have achieved something remarkable: they have created our sun in a jar. With this research, they have opened the door to understanding space weather and the inner workings of our sun in a way that was previously impossible.

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