The Origins of Hot Plasma in the Solar Corona

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Science  07 Jan 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6013, pp. 55-58
DOI: 10.1126/science.1197738

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The Sun's outer atmosphere, or corona, is heated to millions of degrees, considerably hotter than its surface or photosphere. Explanations for this enigma typically invoke the deposition in the corona of nonthermal energy generated by magnetoconvection. However, the coronal heating mechanism remains unknown. We used observations from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and the Hinode solar physics mission to reveal a ubiquitous coronal mass supply in which chromospheric plasma in fountainlike jets or spicules is accelerated upward into the corona, with much of the plasma heated to temperatures between ~0.02 and 0.1 million kelvin (MK) and a small but sufficient fraction to temperatures above 1 MK. These observations provide constraints on the coronal heating mechanism(s) and highlight the importance of the interface region between photosphere and corona.

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