For the study, the researchers used a red ball to mimic the sun (a large ball of plasma). The ball was a three meter wide hollow sphere with strong magnets in the center and various probes inside.
In the solar system, as the sun spins the plasma spin. Plasma movement in the core of the sun produces a magnetic field that fills the solar atmosphere. The magnetic field weakens on the Alfavan surface (slightly away from the Sun's surface), plasma breaks down and solar wind is created.
"Solar winds vary a lot, but there are essentially two types: fast and slow," said Ethan Peterson, a graduate student in the UW-Madison Department of Physics.
"Satellite missions have documented very well where the fast wind is coming from, so we are trying to do a special study of how slowly the solar wind is generated and evolves as it travels to Earth."
Research researchers found helium pouring into red balls, ionizing them to form plasma. An electrical current was then applied that stirred the plasma and mimicked the spinning plasma and the electromagnetic fields of the sun.
Min-Sun means researchers can record measurements at many stages inside the ball, allowing them to study solar phenomena in three dimensions.
The researchers were able to recreate the Parker spiral, a magnetic field that fills the entire solar system. Below the Alfavan surface, the magnetic field moves straight out of the sun. But on the surface, the motion of the solar wind takes place, pulling the crimson field into a spiral.
"Satellite measurements are very consistent with the Parker Spiral Model Dell, but only one at a time, so you can't map them together, as we would in a lab."
"Our experimental measurements confirm Parker's theory of how it is created by this plasma flow."
The researchers also identified the plasma "burps" of the sun, small, periodic ejections of plasma that fuel slower solar wind. With the plasma spinning, the researchers accelerated the magnetic field and the plasma speed.
Their data mapped an area where the plasma was moving fast enough, and the magnetic field was weak enough that the plasma could collapse and radiate outward.
"These ejections are observed by satellites, but no one knows they operate them. We observed similar burps in our experiment and identified how they develop. "
Researchers emphasize that their Earth-bound experiments complement satellite missions, but do not change. For example, the Parker solar probe, launched in Kerst (2018), is expected to dip below the Alfavan surface and provide new measurements of solar wind.
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