How Is the Solar Corona Heated?

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Science  07 Jan 2005:
Vol. 307, Issue 5706, pp. 51-53
DOI: 10.1126/science.1105460

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The outer atmosphere of our Sun (the corona) is a tenuous, million-degree plasma environment. Given that the corona lies above the much cooler photosphere and chromosphere, some unknown energy source must be depositing extra heat into this region. In his Perspective, Walsh reviews recent progress toward identifying this additional source. It is now believed that the magnetic field that permeates the corona is the source of the heating; the challenge is to determine how that energy can be extracted. Theoretical modeling and the latest space-based observations suggest two possible coronal heating mechanisms: Energy is released either through the dissipation of magnetohydrodynamic waves or by numerous small-scale electric current bursts.