Images of the Sun reveal its atmosphere is more complex than previously thought!

on . Posted in Articles of Interest

LANCASHIRE, England (PNN) - April 9, 2020 - NASA's Hi-C telescope can pick out structures in the Sun's atmosphere as small as 43 miles in size - or about 0.01% of the total size of the star.

It was able to capture the incredibly fine magnetic threads in the “dark areas” and scientists say they are made of extremely hot, million-degree plasma.

What exactly created these strands remains unclear, according to the Lancashire research team, although it will now become a focus for astronomers.

The Hi-C, the telescope that captured the images, is a unique astronomical telescope carried into space on a sub-orbital rocket flight.

The telescope launches to the edge of space where it then captures images of the star every second before returning to Earth after five minutes.

The international team of researchers behind the discovery and the telescope are now working on plans to again launch the Hi-C rocket mission.

Next time they will be overlapping their observations with two Sun-observing spacecraft currently gathering further data, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and ESA’s Solar Orbiter.

Dr. Amy Winebarger, Hi-C principal investigator at NASA MSFC, stated, “These new Hi-C images give us a remarkable insight into the Sun's atmosphere. Along with ongoing missions such as Probe and SolO, this fleet of space-based instruments in the near future will reveal the Sun's dynamic outer layer in a completely new light.”

Scientists will debate why they are formed and how their presence helps us understand the eruption of solar flares and solar storms.

Those are events from the Sun that could directly affect life on Earth.

Tom Williams, a postdoctoral researcher at UCLan who worked on the Hi-C data, said the images would help provide a greater understanding of how the Earth and Sun relate to each other.

“This is a fascinating discovery that could better inform our understanding of the flow of energy through the layers of the Sun and eventually down to Earth itself,” said Williams. “This is so important if we are to model and predict the behavior of our life-giving star.”

Robert Walsh, professor of solar physics at UCLan, said the images provided an “ultra-high definition” glimpse of the Sun for the first time.

“Until now, solar astronomers have effectively been viewing our closest star in 'standard definition',” said Walsh.

The images show the outer layer is filled with previously unseen fine magnetic threats of hot plasma, giving a deeper insight into the make-up of the star.

“Think of it like this: if you are watching a football match on television in standard definition, the football pitch looks green and uniform,” said Walsh. “Watch the same game in ultra-HD and the individual blades of grass can jump out at you, and that's what we're able to see with the Hi-C images. We are catching sight of the constituent parts that make up the atmosphere of the star.”

The research has been published in the Astrophysical Journal.

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