Home > Astronomy, Astrophysics, General Astronomy, Solar System, Sun > Sun’s Loops Are Displaying An Optical Illusion

Sun’s Loops Are Displaying An Optical Illusion


Credit: NASA/SDO

Credit: NASA/SDO

The Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, has posed an enduring mystery. Why is it so hot? The Sun’s visible surface is only 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, but as you move outward the temperature shoots up to millions of degrees. It’s like a campfire that feels hotter the farther away you stand.

To understand how the corona is heated, some astronomers study coronal loops. These structures are shaped like an upside-down U and show where magnetic field lines are funneling solar gases or plasma.

Our best photos of the Sun suggest that these loops are a constant width, like strands of rope. However, new work shows that this is an optical illusion; the loops are actually tapered, wider at the top and narrower at the ends. This finding has important implications for coronal heating.

“You need less energy to heat the corona if the loops have a tapered geometry, which is exactly what we found,” says lead author Henry Winter of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

Full Story: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2013/pr201318.html

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