Solar Physics

, Volume 196, Issue 1, pp 79–111

Solar Spicules: A Review of Recent Models and Targets for Future Observations – (Invited Review)

  • Alphonse C. Sterling


Since their discovery over 100 years ago, there have been many suggestions for the origin and development of solar spicules. Because the velocities of spicules are comparable to the sound and Alfvén speeds of the low chromosphere, linear theory cannot fully describe them. Consequently, detailed tests of theoretical ideas had to await the development of computing power that only became available during the 1970s. This work reviews theories for spicules and spicule-like features over approximately the past 25 years, with an emphasis on the models based on nonlinear numerical simulations. These models have given us physical insight into wave propagation in the solar atmosphere, and have helped elucidate how such waves, and associated shock waves, may be capable of creating motions and structures on magnetic flux tubes in the lower solar atmosphere. So far, however, it has been difficult to reproduce the most-commonly-quoted parameters for spicules with these models, using what appears to be the most suitable input parameters. A key impediment to developing satisfactory models has been the lack of reliable observational information, which is a consequence of the small angular size and transient lifetime of spicules. I close with a list of key observational questions to be addressed with space-based satellites, such as the currently operating TRACE satellite, and especially the upcoming Solar-B mission. Answers to these questions will help determine which, if any, of the current models correctly explains spicules.


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alphonse C. Sterling
    • 1
  1. 1.Marshall Space Flight Center, SD50/Space Science DepartmentNASAHuntsvilleU.S.A.

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