In DepthHeliophysics

‘Campfires’ may drive heating of solar atmosphere

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Science  07 May 2021:
Vol. 372, Issue 6542, pp. 557-558
DOI: 10.1126/science.372.6542.557

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Summary

Researchers are getting closer to solving the mystery of why the Sun's wispy atmosphere is nearly 200 times hotter than its surface. Temperatures ought to decline as one moves out from the Sun's core, but the solar atmosphere, or corona, seethes at more than 1 million degrees Celsius, far hotter than the 5500°C temperature of the surface. Flares have been a prime suspect for providing the missing heat. Solar Orbiter, launched by the European Space Agency just over 1 year ago, observed the corona from a vantage halfway between the Sun and Earth and saw a welter of brief brightenings, dubbed "campfires": almost 1500 of them during a 4-minute observation. Computer models presented last week at the European Geosciences Union meeting suggest such small flares could provide enough heat to maintain the corona's temperature. Reports on radio observations of the Sun support that view.

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