Looking closer at the Sun

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Science  17 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6207, pp. 305-306
DOI: 10.1126/science.1260828

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The Sun's atmosphere is a dramatic and dynamically changing one. The physical domains encountered as the atmosphere is explored from the Sun's surface to the outer corona differ widely. The region where the differences are more notable is the interface region, where the plasma characteristics change from optically thick to optically thin and the regime goes from gasdominated to magnetic-dominated. NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) (15) is now observing this elusive region. The first results from the mission are showing a world of twisted magnetic fields throughout the region, “bombs” exploding at regular intervals, evidence of particle acceleration causing heating in coronal loops, and small jets and loops appearing at cool temperatures. These results are providing important input into how the solar atmosphere is created and maintained and how the solar wind is formed.