Do Heat Bombs Heat Up Sun's Outer Surface?

First Posted: Dec 12, 2016 03:20 AM EST

There have been new observations from a NASA spacecraft may facilitate in solving a persistent mystery -- why the Sun's atmosphere is much hotter than its surface. The Sun as people all know is very hot. The Sun's visible surface is estimated to be 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,538 degrees Celsius), while its higher atmosphere, which is the corona, has temperatures within millions of degrees.

According to, the spacecraft of NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) looks at the transition region between the Sun's surface and also its corona. The satellite recently saw proof of "heat bombs" that occur once magnetic fields cross within the corona and then realign, very much like the method that causes solar flares.

Paola Testa, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who led the research, said in a NASA statement that because IRIS can resolve the transition region by 10 times better the previous used instruments, they were able to see hot materials rushing up and down the magnetic field in the lower corona. She added that this is compatible with models from the University of Oslo, where the magnetic reconnection generates heat bombs within the corona.

The said manner is not the only way to heat the corona; however, it is one among the contributors. Another issue is when the plasma waves from the Sun smash into the corona, moving energy into the outer atmosphere. IRIS (Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph), which was launched in June 2013, might be a step toward understanding coronal heating, that has perplexed astronomers for many years, NASA officials satated. One good thing about the observatory is that it endlessly observes the Sun, permitting scientists to ascertain quick-moving events like heat bombs.

Bart De Pontieu, a solar physicist from Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, stated that the drawback involves a variety of complicated physical processes that are tough to directly measure or capture in theoretical models.

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