Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Sun Is A Fun Place To Work

I am a graduate student and research assistant at the University of Colorado in astronomy and physics.  My research involves making computer simulations of the interior of the sun to study the sun's magnetic fields.  Like the Earth, the sun has a magnetic field but since the sun is a plasma the magnetic field interacts with everything, not just magnets.  Here's a cool example of this from the surface of the sun thanks to a solar telescope in Italy (click to enlarge):
Each of those little lines is a jet of 5,000 degree plasma several hundred miles wide and several hundred thousand miles long moving at over 30,000 miles per hour.  The magnetic field creates a tube the makes all of the gas flow in the same direction. 

So where does the magnetic field come from and how does it get out to the surface of the sun?  Those are the kinds of questions I'm trying to answer.

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