Sounds Of The Sun: Listen To The Eruption-Revealing Hum Of Our Star

NASA has released a series of sound clips revealing what the motion of our Sun actually sounds like.

For years, scientists have been studying the dynamics of the Solar System, an effort aimed at observing different objects sitting in our neighborhood including its only star — the Sun.

The work, conducted with different space missions, has given us a lot to learn, but despite hosting some of the finest ground and space-based telescopes, we still have no definite way to peer deep inside the corona or the atmosphere of the Sun.

In order to fully understand the dynamics of our star, it is very essential to know what’s happening within it. The lack of tools limits our capacity in this area, but, the data collected by NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and the European Space Agency (ESA) has given us a way to hear the vibrations of the star and predict what’s going on there.

Scientists have long known that any material movement, be it on Earth or beyond, generates an accompanying wave. The rule also applies to the Sun and movement occurring on its surface produces waves.

“Waves are traveling and bouncing around inside the Sun, and if your eyes were sensitive enough they could actually see this,” Alex Young, associate director for science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

The data related to these waves has been captured by SOHO and ESA for over 20 years and scientists at Stanford Experimental Physics Lab have converted that information into sounds. For instance, in this audio, we can hear the vibrations of our star.

These jiggles, as Young described, are helping scientists get an idea of what’s happening inside our Sun. Essentially, the vibrations occur at a different frequency and those frequencies can be used to look inside the sun and study a range of processes, starting from solar flares to coronal mass ejections (CME).

“We don’t have straightforward ways to look inside the Sun. We don’t have a microscope to zoom inside the Sun,” Young added. “So using a star or the Sun’s vibrations allows us to see inside of it.”

The method has helped scientists observe flowing solar material and understand the Sun like never before. The complex movement that occurs inside produces magnetic fields that move up to the surface and create sunspots, which then produce solar flares and CMEs.

“That simple sound is giving us a probe inside of a star. I think that’s a pretty cool thing,” Young said. Additional multimedia related to the sounds of the Sun is available on NASA’s SoundCloud channel and is up for display at the agency’s Goddard Visitor Center.

Young Galaxy’s Halo Offers Clues To Its Growth And Evolution

A team of astronomers has discovered a new way to unlock the mysteries of how the first galaxies formed and evolved.

In a study published today in Astrophysical Journal Letters, lead author Dawn Erb of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and her team — for the very first time — used new capabilities at W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii to examine Q2343-BX418, a small, young galaxy located about 10 billion light years away from Earth.

This distant galaxy is an analog for younger galaxies that are too faint to study in detail, making it an ideal candidate for learning more about what galaxies looked like shortly after the birth of the universe.

BX418 is also attracting astronomers’ attention because its gas halo is giving off a special type of light.

“In the last several years, we’ve learned that the gaseous halos surrounding galaxies glow with a particular ultraviolet wavelength called Lyman alpha emission. There are a lot of different theories about what produces this Lyman alpha emission in the halos of galaxies, but at least some of it is probably due to light that is originally produced by star formation in the galaxy being absorbed and re-emitted by gas in the halo,” said Erb.

Erb’s team, which includes Charles Steidel and Yuguang Chen of Caltech, used one of the observatory’s newest instruments, the Keck Cosmic Web Imager (KCWI), to perform a detailed spectral analysis of BX418’s gas halo; its properties could offer clues about the stars forming within the galaxy.

“Most of the ordinary matter in the universe isn’t in the form of a star or a planet, but gas. And most of that gas exists not in galaxies, but around and between them,” said Erb.

The halo is where gas enters and exits the system. The gas surrounding galaxies can fuel them; gas from within a galaxy can also escape into the halo. This inflow and outflow of gas influences the fate of stars.

“The inflow of new gas accreting into a galaxy provides fuel for new star formation, while outflows of gas limit a galaxy’s ability to form stars by removing gas,” says Erb.

“So, understanding the complex interactions happening in this gaseous halo is key to finding out how galaxies form stars and evolve.”

This study is part of a large ongoing survey that Steidel has been leading for many years. Previously, Steidel’s team studied BX418 using other instruments at Keck Observatory.

This most recent study using KCWI adds detail and clarity to the image of the galaxy and its gas halo that was not possible before; the instrument is specifically engineered to study wispy currents of faint gas that connect galaxies, known as the cosmic web.

“Our study was really enabled by the design and sensitivity of this new instrument. It’s not just an ordinary spectrograph — it’s an integral field spectrograph, which means that it’s a sort of combination camera and spectrograph, where you get a spectrum of every pixel in the image,” said Erb.

The power of KCWI, combined with the Keck telescopes’ location on Maunakea where viewing conditions are among the most pristine on Earth, provides some of the most detailed glimpses of the cosmos.

Erb’s team used KCWI to take spectra of the Lyman alpha emission of BX418’s halo. This allowed them to trace the gas, plot its velocity and spatial extent, then create a 3-D map showing the structure of the gas and its behavior.

The team’s data suggests that the galaxy is surrounded by a roughly spherical outflow of gas and that there are significant variations in the density and velocity range of this gas.

Erb says this analysis is the first of its kind. Because it has only been tested on one galaxy, other galaxies need to be studied to see if these results are typical.

Now that the team has discovered a new way to learn about the properties of the gaseous halo, the hope is that further analysis of the data they collected and computer simulations modeling the processes will yield additional insights into the characteristics of the first galaxies in our universe.

“As we work to complete more detailed modeling, we will be able to test how the properties of Lyman alpha emission in the gas halo are related to the properties of the galaxies themselves, which will then tell us something about how the star formation in the galaxy influences the gas in the halo,” Erb said.

Heavy Ash Fall From Ambae Volcano

Much of the east and north of Vanuatu’s Ambae Island have experienced heavy ashfall after the eruption from the Manaro volcano intensified on Monday, residents say.

One resident, Marsden Philip Vuvu, said there was a thick fine ash on his veranda and it got so dark at four in the afternoon that people were forced to used torches.

He said people were also using umbrellas to keep the ash off them.

The Penama Province Disaster Officer, Mansen Tari, has confirmed the latest ash fall saying the rumbling noise of the eruption can be heard at Penama Provincial Headquarters at Saratamata on the coast, more than 30 kilometres away.

The Department of Meteorology and Geo-Hazards in Port Vila has also called on residents to keep well away from the no-go zones and warned that the eruption may eject rocks from the crater.

The Department warns that with the current wind direction, the nearby islands of Maewo and Pentecost may also be affected by ash fall.

Study Finds Deep Subterranean Connection Between Two Japan Volcanoes

Scientists have confirmed for the first time that radical changes of one volcano in southern Japan was the direct result of an erupting volcano 22 kilometers (13.7 miles) away. The observations from the two volcanos–Aira caldera and Kirishima–show that the two were connected through a common subterranean magma source in the months leading up to the 2011 eruption of Kirishima.

The Japanese cities of Kirishima and Kagoshima lie directly on the border of the Aira caldera, one of the most active, hazardous, and closely monitored volcanoes in southern Japan. Identifying how volcanoes interact is critical to determine if and how an eruption can influence the activity of a distant volcano or raise the threat of a new strong explosive event.

The research team from the University of Miami’s (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Florida International University analyzed deformation data from 32 permanent GPS stations in the region to identify the existence of a common magma reservoir that connected the two volcanoes.

Leading up to the eruption of Kirishima, which is located in the densely-populated Kagoshima region, the Aira caldera stopped inflating, which experts took as a sign that the volcano was at rest. The results from this new study, however, indicated that the opposite was happening–the magma chamber inside Aira began to deflate temporarily while Kirishima was erupting and resumed shortly after the activity at Kirishima stopped.

“We observed a radical change in the behavior of Aira before and after the eruption of its neighbor Kirishima,” said Elodie Brothelande, a postdoctoral researcher at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead author of the study. “The only way to explain this interaction is the existence of a connection between the two plumbing systems of the volcanoes at depth.”

Prior to this new study, scientists had geological records of volcanoes erupting or collapsing at the same time, but this is the first example of an unambiguous connection between volcanoes that allowed scientists to study the underlying mechanisms involved. The findings confirm that volcanoes with no distinct connection at the surface can be part of a giant magmatic system at depth.

“To what extend magmatic systems are connected is an important question in terms of the hazards,” said Falk Amelung, professor of geophysics at the UM Rosenstiel School and coauthor of the study. “Is there a lot of magma underground and can one eruption trigger another volcano? Up until now there was little or no evidence of distinct connections.”

“Eruption forecasting is crucial, especially in densely populated volcanic areas,” said Brothelande. “Now, we know that a change in behavior can be the direct consequence of the activity of its neighbor Kirishima.”

The findings also illustrate that large volcanic systems such as Aira caldera can respond to smaller eruptions at nearby volcanoes if fed from a common deep reservoir but not all the time, since magma pathways open and close periodically.

“Now, we have to look whether this connnection is particular for these volcanoes in southeastern Japan or are widespread and occur around the world,” said Amelung.

Another Volcano? Jupiter Probe Sees Hotspot on Roiling Moon Io

NASA’s Jupiter-orbiting Juno spacecraft may have just boosted the already-impressive volcano tally on the gas giant’s lava-spewing moon Io.

Juno’s Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper instrument, or JIRAM, detected a sizable “hotspot” near Io’s south pole on Dec. 16, 2017, during one of the probe’s close Jupiter flybys. Juno was about 290,000 miles (470,000 kilometers) away from Io at the time, NASA officials said.

“The new Io hotspot JIRAM picked up is about 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the nearest previously mapped hotspot,” Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, said in a statement. [Amazing Photos: Jupiter’s Volcanic Moon Io]

“We are not ruling out movement or modification of a previously discovered hotspot, but it is difficult to imagine one could travel such a distance and still be considered the same feature,” Mura added.

Io is the most volcanically active body in the solar system, with its insides roiled and churned by Jupiter’s powerful gravity and the tugs of its fellow Galilean satellites, Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. Thanks to the efforts of ground-based telescopes and NASA probes such as the Jupiter-orbiting Galileo and the Saturn-studying Cassini, astronomers have already mapped about 150 volcanoes on the moon, some of which blast lava 250 miles (400 km) out into space.

So, confirming a new Io volcano wouldn’t come as much of a shock. Indeed, according to NASA officials, about 250 additional volcanoes likely await discovery on Io, which is the fourth-largest moon in the solar system. (With a diameter of about 2,260 miles, or 3,640 km, Io is slightly larger than Earth’s moon.)

The $1.1 billion Juno mission arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. The spacecraft loops around the gas giant on a highly elliptical path, making close flybys like the Dec. 16 encounter every 53 days. During these passes, Juno studies Jupiter’s composition, structure, and gravitational and magnetic fields, looking for clues about the huge planet’s formation and evolution (and also collecting a wealth of other data, as the Io observations show).

Hawaii Volcano Eruption Forms New Lava ‘Island’Just Off Coast

The ongoing eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano and continued lava flows into the sea has created a tiny new landmass off the Big Island, officials revealed Friday.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the tiny island formed off the northernmost part of the ocean entry from Fissure 8, and was oozing lava similar to that of the larger lava flow along the coast.

In photos posted by the agency, the “island” is just a few meters off shore, and about 20 to 30 feet in diameter.

“It’s most likely part of the fissure 8 flow that’s entering the ocean—and possibly a submarine tumulus that built up underwater and emerged above sea level,” the USGS said.

But anyone who may have wanted to visit the new landmass in its ‘island’ form is out of luck, as the agency revealed on Monday it’s now connected back to the Big Island by a strip of lava.

How Might Dark Matter Interact With Ordinary Matter?

An international team of scientists that includes University of California, Riverside, physicist Hai-Bo Yu has imposed conditions on how dark matter may interact with ordinary matter — constraints that can help identify the elusive dark matter particle and detect it on Earth.

Dark matter — nonluminous material in space — is understood to constitute 85 percent of the matter in the universe. Unlike normal matter, it does not absorb, reflect, or emit light, making it difficult to detect.

Physicists are certain dark matter exists, having inferred this existence from the gravitational effect dark matter has on visible matter. What they are less certain of is how dark matter interacts with ordinary matter — or even if it does.

In the search for direct detection of dark matter, the experimental focus has been on WIMPs, or weakly interacting massive particles, the hypothetical particles thought to make up dark matter.

But Yu’s international research team invokes a different theory to challenge the WIMP paradigm: the self-interacting dark matter model, or SIDM, a well-motivated framework that can explain the full range of diversity observed in the galactic rotation curves. First proposed in 2000 by a pair of eminent astrophysicists, SIDM has regained popularity in both the particle physics and the astrophysics communities since around 2009, aided, in part, by work Yu and his collaborators did.

Yu, a theorist in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UCR, and Yong Yang, an experimentalist at Shanghai Jiaotong University in China, co-led the team analyzing and interpreting the latest data collected in 2016 and 2017 at PandaX-II, a xenon-based dark matter direct detection experiment in China (PandaX refers to Particle and Astrophysical Xenon Detector; PandaX-II refers to the experiment). Should a dark matter particle collide with PandaX-II’s liquefied xenon, the result would be two simultaneous signals: one of photons and the other of electrons.

Yu explained that PandaX-II assumes dark matter “talks to” normal matter — that is, interacts with protons and neutrons — by means other than gravitational interaction (just gravitational interaction is not enough). The researchers then search for a signal that identifies this interaction. In addition, the PandaX-II collaboration assumes the “mediator particle,” mediating interactions between dark matter and normal matter, has far less mass than the mediator particle in the WIMP paradigm.

“The WIMP paradigm assumes this mediator particle is very heavy — 100 to 1000 times the mass of a proton — or about the mass of the dark matter particle,” Yu said. “This paradigm has dominated the field for more than 30 years. In astrophysical observations, we don’t, however, see all its predictions. The SIDM model, on the other hand, assumes the mediator particle is about 0.001 times the mass of the dark matter particle, inferred from astrophysical observations from dwarf galaxies to galaxy clusters. The presence of such a light mediator could lead to smoking-gun signatures of SIDM in dark matter direct detection, as we suggested in an earlier theory paper. Now, we believe PandaX-II, one of the world’s most sensitive direct detection experiments, is poised to validate the SIDM model when a dark matter particle is detected.”

The international team of researchers reports July 12 in Physical Review Letters the strongest limit on the interaction strength between dark matter and visible matter with a light mediator. The journal has selected the research paper as a highlight, a significant honor.

“This is a particle physics constraint on a theory that has been used to understand astrophysical properties of dark matter,” said Flip Tanedo, a dark matter expert at UCR, who was not involved in the research. “The study highlights the complementary ways in which very different experiments are needed to search for dark matter. It also shows why theoretical physics plays a critical role to translate between these different kinds of searches. The study by Hai-Bo Yu and his colleagues interprets new experimental data in terms of a framework that makes it easy to connect to other types of experiments, especially astrophysical observations, and a much broader range of theories.”

PandaX-II is located at the China Jinping Underground Laboratory, Sichuan Province, where pandas are abundant. The laboratory is the deepest underground laboratory in the world. PandaX-II had generated the largest dataset for dark matter detection when the analysis was performed. One of only three xenon-based dark matter direct detection experiments in the world, PandaX-II is one of the frontier facilities to search for extremely rare events where scientists hope to observe a dark matter particle interacting with ordinary matter and thus better understand the fundamental particle properties of dark matter.

Particle physicists’ attempts to understand dark matter have yet to yield definitive evidence for dark matter in the lab.

“The discovery of a dark matter particle interacting with ordinary matter is one of the holy grails of modern physics and represents the best hope to understand the fundamental, particle properties of dark matter,” Tanedo said.

For the past decade, Yu, a world expert on SIDM, has led an effort to bridge particle physics and cosmology by looking for ways to understand dark matter’s particle properties from astrophysical data. He and his collaborators have discovered a class of dark matter theories with a new dark force that may explain unexpected features seen in the systems across a wide range, from dwarf galaxies to galaxy clusters. More importantly, this new SIDM framework serves as a crutch for particle physicists to convert astronomical data into particle physics parameters of dark matter models. In this way, the SIDM framework is a translator for two different scientific communities to understand each other’s results.

Now with the PandaX-II experimental collaboration, Yu has shown how self-interacting dark matter theories may be distinguished at the PandaX-II experiment.

“Prior to this line of work, these types of laboratory-based dark matter experiments primarily focused on dark matter candidates that did not have self-interactions,” Tanedo said. “This work has shown how dark forces affect the laboratory signals of dark matter.”

Yu noted that this is the first direct detection result for SIDM reported by an experimental collaboration.

“With more data, we will continue to probe the dark matter interactions with a light mediator and the self-interacting nature of dark matter,” he said.