Filaments are dark, serpentine structures that are suspended above the Sun's surface and consist of dense, cold solar material. The onset of CME eruptions had long been known to be associated with filaments, but improved observations have recently shown that jets have similar filament-like structures before eruption too. So the scientists set out to see if they could get their computer simulations to link filaments to jet eruptions as well.
The key for understanding a solar eruption is recognizing how the filament system loses equilibrium, which triggers eruption. In the breakout model, the culprit is magnetic reconnection - a process in which magnetic field lines come together and explosively realign into a new configuration. This process explosively releases the energy stored in the filament, which breaks out from the Sun's surface and is ejected into space.
Confirming this theoretical mechanism will require high-resolution observations of the magnetic field and plasma flows in the solar atmosphere, especially around the Sun's poles where many jets originate -- and that's data that currently are not available. For now, scientists look to upcoming missions such as NASA's Solar Probe Plus and the joint ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA Solar Orbiter, which will acquire novel measurements of the Sun's atmosphere and magnetic fields emanating from solar eruptions.
Credit for Image at Top of Page:
Featured image credit: NASA/SDO