Nav: Home

40-year-old Mariner 5 solar wind problem finds answer -- turbulence doesn't go with the flow

August 26, 2011

Research led by astrophysicists at the University of Warwick has resolved a 40 year old problem with observations of turbulence in the solar wind first made by the probe Mariner Five. The research resolves an issue with what is by far the largest and most interesting natural turbulence lab accessible to researchers today.

Our current understanding tells us that turbulence in the solar wind should not be affected by the speed and direction of travel of that solar wind. However when the first space probes attempted to measure that turbulence they found their observations didn't quite match that physical law. The first such data to be analysed from Mariner 5 in 1971 found a small but nonetheless irritatingly clear pattern in the turbulence perpendicular to both the direction of the travel and the magnetic field the solar wind was travelling through.

While it was an irritating aberration the affect was relatively small and has been essentially ignored by physicists until now. However the most recent space missions to look at the solar wind, such as the Cluster mission, are examining it with such sensitive and highly accurate modern instrumentation that what was once a small aberration was threatening to become a significant stumbling block to us getting a deeper understanding of what is going on in the solar wind - which is effectively the solar system's largest and most interesting natural turbulence lab.

Research led by Andrew Turner and Professor Sandra Chapman in Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics at the University of Warwick has found a solution to this 40 year old problem. The research team looked at data from the Cluster mission and they also created a virtual model of how magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) turbulence builds up in the Solar wind. They then flew a virtual space probe through that virtual model in a range of directions unlike the single direction of travel open to a probe such as Mariner 5.

University of Warwick researcher Andrew Turner said that what they found was that:

"The analysis clearly showed that when all these results were considered together any correlation between changes in the turbulence in the solar wind and the direction of travel simply disappeared. The observed non-axisymmetric anisotropy may simply arise as a sampling effect of using just one probe taking a single particular path through the solar wind."
-end-
The research paper, entitled Non-axisymmetric Anisotropy of Solar Wind Turbulence, is published in PRL and is by A.J. Turner, S. Chapman B. Hnat Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, University of Warwick; G. Gogoberidze, Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, University of Warwick and the Institute of Theoretical Physics, Ilia State University; and W.C.Müller of the Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik.

For further information please contact:

Andrew Turner
Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics
University of Warwick
Tel: +44(0)75251 63843
A.J.Turner@warwick.ac.uk

Prof Sandra Chapman
Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics
University of Warwick
www.warwick.ac.uk/go/cfsa
S.C.Chapman@warwick.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)24 76523390

or

Peter Dunn
Communications Office, University House,
University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 8UW, United Kingdom
email: p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)24 76 523708 Mobile/Cell: +44 (0)7767 655860

University of Warwick

Related Solar Wind Articles:

Table top plasma gets wind of solar turbulence
Scientists from India and Portugal recreate solar turbulence on a table top using a high intensity ultrashort laser pulse to excite a hot, dense plasma and followed the evolution of the giant magnetic field generated by the plasma dynamics.
UNH researcher identifies key differences in solar wind models
The challenge of predicting space weather, which can cause issues with telecommunications and other satellite operations on Earth, requires a detailed understanding of the solar wind (a stream of charged particles released from the sun) and sophisticated computer simulations.
NASA's solar dynamics observatory captured trio of solar flares April 2-3
The sun emitted a trio of mid-level solar flares on April 2-3, 2017.
The economic case for wind and solar energy in Africa
To meet skyrocketing demand for electricity, African countries may have to triple their energy output by 2030.
Chemists create molecular 'leaf' that collects and stores solar power without solar panels
An international research team centered at Indiana University have engineered a molecule that uses light or electricity to convert the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide -- a carbon-neutral fuel source -- more efficiently than any other method of 'carbon reduction.' The discovery, reported today in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, is a new milestone in the quest to recycle carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere into carbon-neutral fuels and others materials.
Wind and solar energy projects could bring 5,000 new jobs to rural Minnesota
While Minnesota's state energy policies have been a large driver in the shift from fossil fuels to renewables, the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit have played a major role in shaping the state's clean energy economy while keeping rates affordable for utility customers, according to a new report from the University of Minnesota Energy Transition Lab.
A better battery: One-time pollutant may become valued product to aid wind, solar energy
Chemists have discovered that one or more organic compounds in a family that traditionally has been known as pollutants could offer an important advance to make cheap, reliable batteries.
UNH researchers discover effect of rare solar wind on Earth's radiation belts
Researchers from the University of New Hampshire have captured unique measurements of the Van Allen radiation belts, which circle the Earth, during an extremely rare solar wind event.
NREL supercomputing model provides insights from higher wind and solar generation in the eastern power grid
A new study from the United States Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory used high-performance computing capabilities and innovative visualization tools to model, in unprecedented detail, how the power grid of the eastern United States could operationally accommodate higher levels of wind and solar photovoltaic generation.
Food waste could store solar and wind energy
Saving up excess solar and wind energy for times when the sun is down or the air is still requires a storage device.

Related Solar Wind Reading:

Dumb Energy: A Critique of Wind and Solar energy
by Norman Rogers (Author)

Solar and Wind Power: The Basics
by Andrew Motes (Author)

The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy
by Lester R. Brown (Author), Emily Adams (Contributor), Janet Larsen (Contributor), J Matthew Roney (Contributor)

Solar Wind
by Peter Jones (Author)

40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead: A Hands-on, Step-by-Step Sustainable-Living Guide (Creative Homeowner) Includes Fences, Coops, Sheds, Wind & Solar Power, Rooftop & Vertical Gardening
by David Toht (Author), Gardening (Author)

Windmills and Wind Motors: How to Build and Run Them
by F. E. Powell (Author)

Off-Grid Living: How To Build Wind Turbine, Solar Panels And Micro Hydroelectric Generator To Power Up Your House: (Wind Power, Hydropower, Solar Energy, Power Generation)
by Andy Anderson (Author), Arnold Thompson (Author), David Shwarz (Author)

Oracle - Solar Wind (Volume 4)
by CW Trisef (Author)

Do-it-Yourself Solar and Wind Energy System: DIY Off-grid and On-grid Solar Panel and Wind Turbine System
by Eric Layton (Author)

Sailing on a Solar Wind
by Mr Michael A Naaden (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Story Behind The Numbers
Is life today better than ever before? Does the data bear that out? This hour, TED speakers explore the stories we tell with numbers — and whether those stories portray the full picture. Guests include psychologist Steven Pinker, economists Tyler Cowen and Michael Green, journalist Hanna Rosin, and environmental activist Paul Gilding.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#486 Volcanoes
This week we're talking volcanoes. Because there are few things that fascinate us more than the amazing, unstoppable power of an erupting volcano. First, Jessica Johnson takes us through the latest activity from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii to help us understand what's happening with this headline-grabbing volcano. And Janine Krippner joins us to highlight some of the lesser-known volcanoes that can be found in the USA, the different kinds of eruptions we might one day see at them, and how damaging they have the potential to be. Related links: Kilauea status report at USGS A beginner's guide to Hawaii's otherworldly...