Collaborative research detects nanojets with machine learning algorithms

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Northumbria PhD student Ramatha Sugarmadji. Credit: Simon Waite-Wilson/Northumbria University

A mystery that has baffled astronomers and physicists for decades is one step closer to being solved in a collaboration between Northumbria University and Lockheed Martin, America’s leading space technology organization.

The solar corona is the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere, but it is millions of degrees hotter than the Sun’s surface. It is shaped and powered by the Sun’s magnetic field, but the exact process by which the magnetic field transfers its energy to the coronal gas has remained elusive for the past 80 years.

A theory known as the Parker nanoflare theory, which originated in 1988, posits that the heat generated when magnetic field lines within the corona break and reconnect causes a sudden burst of energy, or „nanoflare.”

In 2021, Northumbria’s Dr. A team of researchers led by Patrick Andolin Direct evidence is available This reconnection creates „nanojets” and creates a very rapid, lateral separation that reconnects the magnetic field lines with the nanoflare. This phenomenon is now a telling sign of the nanoflare theory and could account for the high temperatures of the solar corona if it propagated into the corona.

However, detecting and predicting nanojets is difficult. Any images or footage capturing the process in action are purely coincidental, and little is known about how often nanojets occur and how they affect coronal heating. The small sizes and short time scales of nanojets make detection difficult with instruments with currently available resolutions.

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In an effort to gather more evidence, Northumbria Ph.D. Dr. Student Ramatha Sugarmadji, supervised by Patrick Andol, is working with scientists at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory (LMSAL), part of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center, to develop machine learning algorithms that automatically detect and register nanojets. When they occur.

Ramada is a member of Northumbria University’s world-leading solar and space physics research group, which collaborates extensively with over 40 industry partners, including UK Research and Innovation, the UK Space Agency, the European Space Agency, the UK Met Office and Lockheed. Martin.

Dr. Patrick Andolin is a leading expert in magnetic reconnection and nanojets. His paper was published in „Reconnection Nanojets in the Solar Corona”. Natural Astronomy In 2020, the first discovery of active nanojets was reported, resulting in coronal heating.

The team from Northumbria University and Lockheed Martin will analyze existing views of the nanojets captured by NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) and the Solar Dynamics Observatory (STO) Atmospheric Imaging Assembly. , and works. The IRIS team spent several weeks observing to detect the nanojets. Using this data, the team will identify unique spectral and intensity profiles as the nanojet occurs and use machine learning to develop algorithms for further analysis.

Speaking about the research project, Ramada said, „Thanks to the work of my supervisor Dr. Antolin and others, we know that nanojets exist, and that reconnection-based heating may play a significant role in explaining why the solar corona reaches such high temperatures. , At this time we can only detect nanojet phenomena with the naked eye. Can—what we need is a way to detect them automatically, especially given the large amount of data acquired for our project.

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„They are very small and the limited evidence we have suggests there are more than we think, but to understand them further we can detect them as they occur.

„By analyzing data from previous events of nanojets, a computer can be 'taught’ to recognize nanojets through machine learning. This will allow us to image future events and develop our understanding of these events and how they contribute to the warming of the corona.”

Speaking about Ramada’s research, Dr. Antolin said, „Working with Ramada on nanojets has been an absolute pleasure. His willingness to learn, impressive talent, and great eloquence make him a great researcher. He has done amazing work over the years, which has not only helped establish nanojets as a significant cornerstone in solar physics but also underscores their importance with more impactful discoveries. Raised.”

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Natural Astronomy


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