Special Reports

Chromospheric Alfvénic Waves Strong Enough to Power the Solar Wind

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Science  07 Dec 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5856, pp. 1574-1577
DOI: 10.1126/science.1151747

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Alfvén waves have been invoked as a possible mechanism for the heating of the Sun's outer atmosphere, or corona, to millions of degrees and for the acceleration of the solar wind to hundreds of kilometers per second. However, Alfvén waves of sufficient strength have not been unambiguously observed in the solar atmosphere. We used images of high temporal and spatial resolution obtained with the Solar Optical Telescope onboard the Japanese Hinode satellite to reveal that the chromosphere, the region sandwiched between the solar surface and the corona, is permeated by Alfvén waves with strong amplitudes on the order of 10 to 25 kilometers per second and periods of 100 to 500 seconds. Estimates of the energy flux carried by these waves and comparisons with advanced radiative magnetohydrodynamic simulations indicate that such Alfvén waves are energetic enough to accelerate the solar wind and possibly to heat the quiet corona.

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