New images of the sun reveal superfine threads of glowing plasma

Thursday, April 16, 2020 - 08:30 in Astronomy & Space

The sharpest images yet taken of the sun’s atmosphere reveal superfine threads of hot plasma draped across small regions that have appeared rather bland until now. Finding these slender strands is essential for understanding how energy moves around in the sun’s atmosphere, says Amy Winebarger, a solar physicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Such intel could help astronomers understand why the corona — the outer part of the sun’s atmosphere — is hundreds of times hotter than the sun’s surface (SN: 8/20/17). Some of the newfound filaments measure just over 200 kilometers wide — they would barely fit between Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. No one has seen them before because previous images could not resolve such fine detail in the solar corona. Fine threads of plasma (dark lines in box) appear in this ultraviolet image of a magnetically active region on the sun from NASA’s Hi-C suborbital telescope. The entire image spans a region roughly 191,000 kilometers on...

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