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NASA takes a quick look at the mysterious layer of the Sun.

NASA takes a quick look at the mysterious layer of the Sun.

Imagine The minute they transported you to the middle layers of the sun’s atmosphere. On the surface of the sun, scientists call the “visible disk” the photosphere, which boils beneath you, heated by a red-hot plasma at 10,000 Fahrenheits. Above you, a wide crown, the atmospheric aura of gas heated by several million Fahrenheits, throws heat, light, magnetism, and radioactive particles into space with explosive force. The corona has long been an enigma to scientists: it is much hotter than the underlying layers. It would be like traveling outside the surface of the sun right away, away from a campground, and feeling more warm than when you are sitting next to the flames.

You are floating in the chromosphere, which is located between these two very studied layers of the solar atmosphere (the “color sphere”), because of the pink colors that can be seen from the Earth during total solar eclipses. Closer to home, these pink glows are seas that boil plasma with hydrogen reaching the massive horizon of the sun. But another major force opens up in the chromosphere: the magnetic fields of the sun. These areas are formed below the surface of the sun as a result of the dynamo effect, heat and rotation on the largest scale in the solar system. The sun’s magnetic fields are massive, but within its inner layers, their forces are channeled and controlled by the pressure of heated plasma, like boiling pot of tomato soup that perceives its heat outward.

Wear your ultraviolet glasses, and you will see something interesting. As it rises inside the chromosphere, the relative strength of the heated plasma decreases rapidly, but the magnetic fields are relatively strong. The higher you look, the more the forces of magnetism prevail. In the photosphere, magnetic fields leave the plasma aside, exploding outward in massive jaws, rooted in their black regions in what we call sunspots. (In the photosphere, each is the size of the Earth.) These magnetic loops twist and cut as they interact in the plasma and interact, creating a chaotic and dynamic environment – because the highly heated brouhaha is so powerful that the effects are felt in us. A planet 93 million kilometers away.

What you would see in the sun’s atmosphere is hypothetical, of course – not only because the chromosphere evaporates immediately, but also because for decades scientists have had to guess exactly what’s going on inside it. Unlike the photosphere and corona, it is very difficult to see and therefore map. “It’s a really confusing place,” says David McKenzie, the lead investigator of NASA’s Chromospheric Layer Spectropolarimeter 2 mission, or Clasp2, a sounding rocket fired briefly to observe the sun on Earth’s atmosphere, then launched an instrument and data charge parachute. . “That’s what makes it exciting. It’s the limit in the middle of the solar atmosphere. “

McKenzie is the author of a new article that appeared in February Scientific Advances, The result of data collected by Clasp2 in 2019, representing the first successful mapping of the magnetic field of the chromosphere in four layers, using new techniques of ultraviolet imaging of the solar magnetic field. Written by a group in Japan, Europe and the US, his findings seem to confirm theories about how to heat the crown. Using these new mapping techniques, scientists believe they can better understand real-time coronal mass exponations (CMEs) and space weather — the radioactive magnetic fields that cause chaos when they hit Earth — in real time. or technology in space.

Courtesy of David E. McKenzie

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