The sun’s atmosphere is 1 million degrees Celsius hot, and we finally know why
The European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar Orbiter managed to spot a rather bizarre ‘campfire’ phenomenon in the solar atmosphere last year that revealed the sun’s outer layer to be hotter than the core. A new discovery offers a better understanding of this strange phenomenon.
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The sun is known to provide heat and energy to the planets around the solar system, including the Earth of course. What is strange is that its surface peaks at a temperature of 5500 degrees Celsius, which is quite hot. However, its atmosphere dubbed the Crown is several times hotter, up to a million degrees Celsius.
It only makes us think of the common Hindi saying, “chai se zyada ketli garam”, while defying logic and making scientists believe that there might be something else responsible for it. And now, a new study presented to the General Assembly of the European Geoscience Union offers some explanation.
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The study used computer simulations to model the sun’s energy emissions, with the goal of creating flares like those detected and measured in scientific instruments. As the simulations unfolded as usual, they discovered highlights that were identical in scale to the campfires seen last year.
Study co-author Dr Hardi Peter of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research explained in the press release: “The model generated enlightenment just like the campfires. Plus, it traces the magnetic field lines, allowing us to see the changes in the magnetic field in and around brightening events over time, telling us that a process called component reconnection appears to be at work. ”
ESA explained reconnection as the process by which magnetic fields break and reconnect, and each time they do, they release energy. According to Yajie Chen, first author of the study and a doctoral student at Peking University in China, the energy released during these “brightenings” could explain the warm temperatures of the sun’s atmosphere.
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The researchers concluded by stating: “Based on our study, we propose that the majority of campfire events found by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) are caused by the reconnection of components and our model suggests that this process contributes significantly to the heating of the corona above the silent Sun. “
The researchers say more research is needed on the subject, but its recent findings are definitely impressive, given that the Solar Orbiter that captured the images of the corona is not even in service yet.
At present, the spacecraft is only in a “cruising phase” where its current focus is instrument calibration. Its regular operation will begin later this year.