EDUCATION: The Prodigal Sun

Science  02 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5654, pp. 21a
DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5654.21a

The sun has misbehaved lately. Twice last fall, massive solar flares pelted Earth with charged particles, befuddling satellites and sparking gaudy auroras as far south as Texas. To find out more about what triggers these outbursts and how the sun works, check out this primer from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Plunge into the sun's core, where at 15 million kelvin, hydrogen atoms fuse to form helium. Or cruise through the sun's roiling outer layers, such as the photosphere, the visible “surface” that's often freckled with sunspots. Flares such as the mammoth one photographed on 4 November of last year erupt when the magnetic field around a sunspot gets contorted.

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