Home > Astronomy, Astrophysics, General Astronomy, Magnetic Fields, Solar System, Sun > Space Instrument Adds Big Piece To The Solar Corona Puzzle

Space Instrument Adds Big Piece To The Solar Corona Puzzle


Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

The Sun’s visible surface, or photosphere, is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As you move outward from it, you pass through a tenuous layer of hot, ionized gas or plasma called the corona. The corona is familiar to anyone who has seen a total solar eclipse, since it glimmers ghostly white around the hidden Sun.

But how can the solar atmosphere get hotter, rather than colder, the farther you go from the Sun’s surface? This mystery has puzzled solar astronomers for decades. A suborbital rocket mission that launched in July 2012 has just provided a major piece of the puzzle.

The High-resolution Coronal Imager, or Hi-C, revealed one of the mechanisms that pumps energy into the corona, heating it to temperatures up to 7 million degrees F. The secret is a complex process known as magnetic reconnection.

“This is the first time we’ve had images at high enough resolution to directly observe magnetic reconnection,” explained Smithsonian astronomer Leon Golub (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). “We can see details in the corona five times finer than any other instrument.”

Full Story: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2013/pr201303.html
Also: http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/news/press-releases/2013/january/0123-ss-atc.html

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