Data gathered by the team suggest that Alfven waves are energetic enough to heat the whole corona.
The next logical step is to measure how much energy the waves produce at different places in the sun's atmosphere to figure out if Alfven waves are the dominant mechanism for heating the whole solar atmosphere," Jess says.
It was the behavior of spicules in the sun's chromosphere -- waving from side to side like a field of wheat in a gentle breeze -- which heralded the presence of the elusive Alfven waves in the SOT images.
Our simulations imply that it is the bumping and jostling of the magnetic fields in the lower atmosphere that is driving these Alfven waves, which then impart their energy to the solar wind," said Prof.
Using NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite, they traced the movements of this solar 'seaweed' and measured how much energy is being carried by the Alfven waves.
McIntosh said Alfven waves are waves that travel up and down a magnetic field line much the way a wave travels up and down a plucked string.
First proposed in the 1940s, Alfven waves were finally detected in 2007, in solar plasmas.
This creates the bright spots, which twisted left and right like corkscrews, possibly proving that Alfven waves are magnetic," Jess said.
The finding may eventually allow scientists to use Alfven waves to revolutionize Earth's energy needs.