Magazine article Science News

Team Spots Waves That Heat Corona: Find Supports Theory Explaining Why Sun's Atmosphere Sizzles

Magazine article Science News

Team Spots Waves That Heat Corona: Find Supports Theory Explaining Why Sun's Atmosphere Sizzles

Article excerpt

Magnetic waves theorized to transfer heat from the surface of the sun to its outer atmosphere have been directly observed for the first time, a team reports in the March 20 Science.

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Physicists have long wondered why the sun's corona, the outer part of the solar atmosphere, is millions of degrees hotter than its surface. "It's counterintuitive," says study coauthor David Jess of Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland. "When you hold your hands in front of a fire, it's hottest closest to the flames."

The magnetic waves, called Alfven waves, are considered the most plausible explanation for the transfer of so much energy from the sun's surface to its corona. First theorized by Nobel laureate Hannes Alfven in 1942, the waves could carry energy several hundred thousand kilometers from the surface.

The new observation "means that we can get to the root of what's heating the corona," says Craig DeForest of the South west Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. …

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