Generation of solar spicules and subsequent atmospheric heating

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Science  15 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6467, pp. 890-894
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw2796

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Magnetic fields can generate spicules

Spicules are small jets of plasma from the surface of the Sun that last a few minutes. Around a million are occurring at any moment, even during periods of low solar activity. The mechanism responsible for launching spicules remains unknown, as is their contribution to heating the solar corona. Samanta et al. observed emerging spicules and the magnetic fields in the adjacent solar surface. They found that many spicules appear a few minutes after a patch of reverse-polarity magnetic field and that the overlying corona is heated shortly afterward. This result provides evidence that magnetic reconnection can generate spicules, which then transfer energy to the corona.

Science, this issue p. 890


Spicules are rapidly evolving fine-scale jets of magnetized plasma in the solar chromosphere. It remains unclear how these prevalent jets originate from the solar surface and what role they play in heating the solar atmosphere. Using the Goode Solar Telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory, we observed spicules emerging within minutes of the appearance of opposite-polarity magnetic flux around dominant-polarity magnetic field concentrations. Data from the Solar Dynamics Observatory showed subsequent heating of the adjacent corona. The dynamic interaction of magnetic fields (likely due to magnetic reconnection) in the partially ionized lower solar atmosphere appears to generate these spicules and heat the upper solar atmosphere.

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