'Braids' may heat sun's corona, study says
These are snapshots of an active region of the sun taken by Hi-C. The two on the left are zoomed-in parts of the main image.
January 23rd, 2013
07:03 PM ET

'Braids' may heat sun's corona, study says

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

The sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona, is much hotter than its surface. The atmosphere's temperature rises to millions of degrees, while the surface is only about 5,000 degrees Kelvin - a mysterious contrast, given that the atmosphere is farther from the sun's hot core.

Scientists wanted to find out what energy source could be responsible for the inflated temperatures of the corona, which is where space weather - such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections that can interfere with your GPS - comes from.

A NASA telescope called the High-resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) has taken images of the sun's corona with unprecedented resolution, letting scientists take a closer look than ever at the atmosphere of our nearest star. To give you a sense of how good these images are, the resolution is equivalent to resolving a dime from 10 miles away, NASA said.

The result are dozens of high-resolution images that give scientists a "glimpse" of the energy release and storage system in the sun's atmosphere, said Jonathan Cirtain, an astrophysicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, in a press conference Wednesday.

In a study published in the journal Nature, Cirtain and colleagues describe magnetic "braids" in the sun's corona, which could help explain its unusual heat. In other words, twisting and intersecting magnetic field lines move gas around in the corona, generating energy that raises the temperature.

This transfer of energy from the magnetic field of the sun to the corona had been previously thought about, but never observed.

"The dynamic behaviour of the observed structures is interpreted as evidence for ‘magnetic braiding’, an effect in which small bundles of magnetic field become wrapped around each other owing to plasma motions at the solar surface," writes Peter Cargill of Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study, in an accompanying article in Nature.

Check out this video from Nature for a clearer visualization:

Scientists obtained a large amount of data from the telescope in only about five minutes of observation. The mission cost $5 million, including the cost of launching the rocket that carried Hi-C, said Jeff Newmark, scientist with NASA's Sounding Rocket program.

The sun rotates in a 27-day cycle, and its atmosphere with it. As it spins, the atmosphere is constantly changing in an apparently gradual way, said Karel Schrijver, senior fellow at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, California, at Wednesday's press conference.

But when you look closer, with an instrument such as Hi-C, it appears that there are smaller changes and jumps that are responsible for changes in the whole corona, he said. When that process stalls, the extra stress that builds, and eventual relaxation that happens, produce solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

"Those larger explosions and eruptions are what drive space weather around all the planets including, of course, Earth," Schrijver said.

Still, the current findings cannot answer the question of why this process leads to coronal mass ejections sometimes but not others, the scientists said. It's necessary to view structures of the sun at both small and large scales to begin to tackle it, Cirtain said.

"We know where the energy is," Schrijver said. "We don’t know why at any given time it’s released, or gets stuck in this."

The telescope observed flares on the small scale as hot as 7 million degrees, which is the instrument's limit of measurement, Cirtain said.

It's important to study the sun because large solar storms have the potential to damage the power grid and navigation systems, Schrijver said.

Learning about the sun can also teach us about the processes that occur in other stars much further away, Schrijver said. "We need to look at our sun for clues as to what is going on elsewhere in the galaxy," he said.

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Filed under: In Space • the Sun
soundoff (152 Responses)
  1. raul

    so the suns center has mexican beer in it? here i thought it was lowenbrau .. get it ? leo ..

    February 9, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  2. Braveheart

    Seek your answers in the Bible – not in the false prophet Science!

    January 25, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  3. Ummmmm

    So science says everything came from a singularity smaller than an atom. That it spewed out a bunch of stuff (mostly hydrogen) and after billions of years a bunch of dead stuff (molecules, amino acids and carbon, plus other dead stuff) accidentally combined to make life. Yep, totally believable.

    January 25, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • Nice try

      4/10. Try harder.

      January 25, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Cpt. Branagan

      (rolling my eyes)
      You are so right.. Why skydaddy snapping his finger make far more sense than that silly Big Bang Theory.

      January 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
      • Ummmmm

        Georges Lemaître – came up with the Big Bang Theory. He was a priest.

        January 25, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
  4. Amuraka

    All this money for Astronomy but we still know hardly anything about the deep oceans. Hell, someone just got the first live footage of a Kraken. We need to invest more into the ocean, its what feeds us and cleans our air!

    January 24, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • ermagersd

      "...feeds us and cleans our air!"
      Mainly happens through vegetation and animal farming.
      "Hell, someone just got the first live footage of a Kraken."
      And this doomed you to be labeled crazy, whatever this comment meant, in whatever context.

      January 24, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
      • cedar rapids

        to be fair he was just talking about the giant squid footage, i dont think he really meant the kraken from mythology, just what was the likely influence for it.

        January 24, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  5. MandoZink

    The temperature of the corona may be millions of degrees higher than the surface of the sun but it is about a trillion times less dense. That means that the surface of the sun actually has a lot more energy than the corona.

    You could cook a pizza a lot faster on the surface than in the corona.

    January 24, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • j

      http://news.google.com/news/i/story?ncl=dTT4w0LNLYwOtJM-iJ_Evz_bs8XgM&q=temperatures colder than zero&lr=English&hl=en

      EXCLUSIVE: Scientists reach temperatures below absolute zero, universe ... Science Recorder – Jan 5, 2013Somewhat counterintuitively, another way to look at these negative temperatures is to consider them hotter than infinity. “The gas is not colder than zero kelvin, but hotter. It is even hotter than at any positive temperature —the temperature scale simply does ...

      Atoms cooled to below absolute zero 3News NZ – Jan 6, 2013"The gas is not colder than zero Kelvin, but hotter," says physicist Ulrich Schneider, lead author of the paper published in journal Science. "It is even hotter than at any positive temperature." Scientists measure temperature on the Kelvin scale, at which zero ...

      Retrieved from above; I find it difficult to understanding temperatures getting warmer below 0°K and that's it might be very hot between galaxies.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:23 pm |
      • MandoZink

        I have read about this achievement at several physics web sites. As I understand it they were able to force atoms into a state that by one definition was hot and yet exhibited properties that are achieved if you could nudge the temperature below 0°K. I lack the specific understanding I need to comprehend what they actually did. It was implied that this was not a naturally occurring event and would not be a property of atoms existing in intergalactic spaces.

        January 25, 2013 at 12:02 am |
  6. Knumb Knuts

    Who's Kelvin?

    January 24, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Hawkflight

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Thomson,_1st_Baron_Kelvin

      January 24, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  7. palintwit

    Tea party patriots are concerned that these 'coronal mass ejections' will interfere with their ability to watch nascar. That is why they scrunch up aluminum foil on their rabbit ears antenna.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  8. Dan I

    "Coronal Mass Ejections that can mess with your GPS..."

    Or, ya know, fry all the power grids and unshielded electronics on Earth, knocking us back to the 19th Century in a single moment.

    But why mention that, people's GPS' might not work.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Chris R

      Actually they do mention that in the 2nd to last paragraph. They don't harp on it because this isn't an article about disasters.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  9. GG

    Obama is at the center of it all.
    In ancient times we worshiped the sun.
    Now we worship him.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • palintwit

      No. You are mistaken. We don't worship Obama.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  10. palintwit

    Physicists at the prestigous Sarah Palin Galactic Observatory / Bait Shop have been studying this phenomenon for years and they are planning to land on the sun's surface some time this decade for a closer look. Sarah Palin herself has explained to skeptics that the landing will take place at night when the sun is much cooler and therefore should go off without a hitch.

    January 24, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  11. Buck

    They state the sun's surface is a mere '5,000 deg.', and the flares are a whopping '7 million' degrees. Hmm, perhaps they really don't know what these temperature truly are, so they just guess, put it in print, and then it becomes 'scientific fact'. This is eerily similar to NASA's alleged 'mega earth's' based on pixilated images of distant stars. Again, they just make up something, hire an artists to make an 'impression' to feed the scientists and general public, and let her rip.....

    http://www.fountainsofthegreatdeep.com/Alien.htm

    January 24, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • kwdragon

      Don't let the science scare you. I know there were big, important words in the article (and in science articles in general), but a dictionary and an open mind will get you through it. NASA certainly knows what it is doing.

      January 24, 2013 at 9:28 am |
      • Buck

        Why I'll do my best to 'keep up'. Perhaps I should learn more about NASA's comical 'three-foil-thick' tin-can they allegedly 'landed' on the moon piloting back in '69, or maybe I should educate myself on desert stage props and tricks on how to dupe the masses? You tell me....

        January 28, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Nick

      Wow. Please go back to elementary school.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:03 am |
      • Buck

        I told my 3rd grade teacher that NASA's full of crap and if anybody actually thinks they 'landed' on the e-to-w orbiting moon when it's obvious that they can't (not to mention that reentering the atmosphere at 25,000 w/o vaporizing like a meteor inside those tin-cans is beyond preposterous), then they are duped. Then I began to explain in detail why their 'heat shield' design is defunct, then she got mad because she couldn't refute my scientific claims and then the principal expelled me......

        January 28, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Jonathan Cirtain

      The emitted temperature of any celestial object can be determined by the emitted light. The solar photosphere emission is dominated by visible light (yellow) and this is emitted by a plasma at around 5700 degrees Celsius.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:16 am |
      • Buck

        Interesting, yet the 'surface' has always been thought (and stated as 'factual') to be 10k deg F, which is obviously false. Now they realize that the sun is well beyond this temp, so they have to 'sidestep' it and say it's 'millions' of degrees, which actually makes sense. My point is they really don't know exactly, yet they have to 'cover' their previous tracks with articles such as this in efforts to 'save face' from earlier claims. The bottom line, NASA makes it up as they go.....

        January 28, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • johng77

      Or maybe through decades of careful measurement of the sun's elecromagnetic spectrum, volumes of data from measurements of the heat flux from the sun, and who knows how many additional millions of man hours of work from scientists and engineers that all support the notion that the sun's surface is on average a certain temperature, we do know what the sun's surface temperature is.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:17 am |
      • Buck

        If "we know" what the sun's surface temp is, then maybe NASA could send a probe and stick a thermometer in said surface and it will tell us exactly what's going on with that burning ball that races across the sky. Heck, the Soviets claim to have 'landed' a probe on Venus back in the day. NASA should modify such a probe with their 'special plastic' they used on Mercury, and launch the sucker...........

        January 28, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • Chris R

      Buck, do you really think we need to go up there with a big thermometer and stick it in the sun to see how hot it is? Please. If you don't understand science take the time to learn about it. It's not that hard to get the basics and it opens up a a huge new world.

      January 24, 2013 at 11:00 am |
      • Buck

        See my comedy above....

        January 28, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • cedar rapids

      what is scary is i think buck truly believes that scientists just 'guess'.
      just disheartening to realize he is probably a voter.

      January 24, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Kenny

      I no longer want to live on this planet....

      January 25, 2013 at 10:53 am |
      • Buck

        Chris Kraft stated that he believed that within his lifetime NASA would find such a planet for us to 'move to'. And NASA's been feeding the public computer-generated 'pics' of these 'habitable' planets ever since......

        January 28, 2013 at 11:03 am |
  12. newengland2

    That is useful research area we need to support rather than find a earth like planet in universe.

    January 24, 2013 at 8:20 am |
  13. Lee

    The article is in error that the sun's surface is only 5,000 degrees. It is more along the lines of 10,000 degrees, with sun spots being around 7,000 degrees (why they are dark). Very inexpensive as far as space science goes though. A good step in the right direction of understanding why the coronasphere gets so hot, when the surface is so cool. For those that ask "So What?" understanding such mechanics from nature could help to eventually lead to the development of such an efficient energy transfer mechanism for use on earth... or to develop magnetic shielding mechanisms that long term space flight will require to protect astronauts... or even to be able to predict when a corona mass ejection is going to occur such that more timely precautions can be made here on earth to avoid electrical damage, etc. Many practical things are often derived from observation of the forces of nature at work.

    January 24, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • Mac

      Is this a Fahrenheit v Kelvin v Celsius issue? Kelvin is the standard scientific temperature scale in which 5,800 K (5,500 C) would be about right. However the US is more used to seeing temperatures in Fahrenheit, on which scale 10,000 degrees would be about right.

      January 24, 2013 at 8:14 am |
      • elandauCNN

        Hi Mac, you are correct that the unit Kelvins was implied; I have inserted that into the text. Thanks for reading!

        Elizabeth Landau,
        CNN

        January 24, 2013 at 9:06 am |
  14. Ray

    There is much we will never learn about the Sun. One thing is how can the surface be 5,000 degrees? If it was only 5,000 degrees, we would not feel the heat 93 million miles away. The Sun is hot. There is no area on the sun only 5,000 degrees. Another thing that is disturbing is Black Holes. Something that cannot be seen, has never been seen and yet spoken so much about. So called black holes do not let light escape, yet there is nothing but light at the center of our galaxy. So man believes in things that are made up in his head, but do not believe in God. Sad, as when the last day comes, they will be screaming like babies for mercy. Our hubrous is immense. we think we know all. We know nothing. Least of all the love of God.

    January 24, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • Owl96

      First, many scientists do believe in God. Our galaxy is very large. As you move to the center, the density of stars increase. That is why it is so bright near the center. If you think the surface of Sun needs to be greater than 5,000 degrees to heat the Earth, give us the calculations for the minimum temperature needed. Show us the math, do not just guess.

      January 24, 2013 at 7:20 am |
    • UncleM

      Your scientific ignorance and religious delusion are astonishing.

      January 24, 2013 at 7:20 am |
      • lindaluttrell

        It made me think of one simple principle: heat rises...

        January 24, 2013 at 7:51 am |
      • AAL62

        This response is for lindaluttrell......The statement "heat rises" is a fallacy. In all actuality, it is the opposite – "cold" falls. Colder air is more dense and tends to sink, which gives the impression that the warmer air rises. In that nature abhors a vacuum, when the cooler, denser air sinks, the warmer air takes its place.

        Being in the HVAC field, this is one of the first things that is drilled into our heads! LOL That is why heat registers are at floor level – to heat the cooler air so that it becomes less cool and create a situation where the air higher up becomes cooler and sinks, thus creating circulation within the room.

        January 24, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • dontmatter

      So where is the proof of god? Oh there is none!

      January 24, 2013 at 7:29 am |
      • mphilm

        So where is the proof of no god? Oh, there is none! But if god has revealed himself, then there is evidence of such. One might have to look for it. And think about it.

        January 24, 2013 at 11:35 am |
      • cedar rapids

        'But if god has revealed himself, then there is evidence of such. One might have to look for it.'

        you would think that after thousands of years of searching they would have found something by now if that evidence existed.

        January 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Why do people who purposefully choose to be ignorant about science come onto science threads and demonstrate that ignorance for all to see? It's almost like you wear this ignorance as a badge of honor.

      January 24, 2013 at 7:40 am |
      • Ice9

        Welcome to the wonderful world of Internet discussion threads! Where anyone with access to a computer and a strongly held believe feels compelled to "set us straight". I come for the news, science and general information articles...but I stay for the crazy.

        January 24, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Tadpole

      There are a lot worldly phenomenon that at first glance are difficult to understand. You named a few. Yet there are also many scientific methods that can explain then. I am not going to spend the time to do this here, as the forum is really not an ideal place for education – however I suggest you google those exact questions you asked, and take the time to really try to learn the answers that science proposes, and then decide for yourself. hint: Spectral analysis can very accurately determine not only temperature, but molecular makeup of distant celestrial bodies.

      January 24, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • Frank Czine

      All I can say in response to your incredible display of stupidity is WOW!

      January 24, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • snowboarder

      ray, that is so much supersti tious nonsense. pick up a book for christ's sake.

      January 24, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • humanbean

      Your statement about things man has made up in his head wreaks of irony.

      January 24, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • Aezel

      Usually when religious morøns write stuff on these blogs, they at least base their nonsense around a twisted kernel of truth somewhere. You however seem to have accomplished the amazing feat of spewing 100% pure unadulterated bulls*** that you made up off the top of your head. Good job!

      January 24, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • sumday

      At dontmatter – a book is on the floor when I leave the room. While I’m gone someone else walks into the room puts the book on the table and leaves. I later walk in and see the book on the table and start coming up with all kinds of theories on how that book got there- and earthquake made it jump, some magnetic properties pulled it to the desk, A strong gust of wind ect. However since I observe no human in the room do I say well there is no proof that a human was here to pick up the book from the floor to the desk? That is the equivalent of your comment. Science can explain the how’s- laws of physics like knowing the book had to overcome gravity to get to the table, but is impotent at explaining why’s- a person picked the book up off the floor bc he didn’t like seeing clutter on the ground. You claim there is no proof of G-d, but that is bc your basic assumption is that G-d doesn’t exist so you come up with all kinds of improbable scenario’s to explain things- like me assuming an earthquake or gust of wind must of happened to move the book instead of assuming a human moved it. After all using the laws of physics I could show/prove that an earthquake or a very strong gust of wind COULD have moved the book just as easily as a person had but if I start out assuming no human involvement I’m left with, although possible, improbably scenario’s. I can explain all the laws of physics on what it would take to move the book- and all of those laws would be valid, but I could never explain that a being actually moved the book when using the assumption that no humans ever went into the room.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:04 am |
      • hank

        All good science is based on observation and repeatable tests that result in observable phenomena. Good try though on trying to debunk how science works. Good science involves highly valid, reliable, and statistically significant producing data to come up with a reason why or how? No one would theorize that someone else picked up the book and moved it without overwhelming evidence (that others repeated to verify) supporting observations and direct evidence of someone moving the book.

        January 24, 2013 at 11:10 am |
      • cedar rapids

        'However since I observe no human in the room do I say well there is no proof that a human was here to pick up the book from the floor to the desk? That is the equivalent of your comment.'

        No, you say there is no proof a magical being used his powers to levitate the book to the table. Thats closer to the religious claim.

        'You claim there is no proof of G-d, but that is bc your basic assumption is that G-d doesn’t exist so you come up with all kinds of improbable scenario’s to explain things'

        Improbable scenarios? nah thats again the religious arena that claim magic is used for everything. Science isnt about 'improbable scenarios'

        January 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • said

      First how do you know that "we will never know these things" that's a pretty bold statement. Secondly you are right Man does believe in things he makes up in his head. You know like: The Virgin Birth, Creating a person from a Rib, Walking on Water, a 6000 year old earth.., virgins in heaven..I'm sorry I have limited space (pun intended) and have to end this inexhaustible list here.. peace to you.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Jeff

      @Ray

      First off the measurement was in Kelvin not Fahrenheit, might wanna read the article a bit before you make a dumb comment. 2nd, the milky way is thousands of light years wide and black holes are not even close to that size which is why there can be a black hole at the center of our galaxy. A black holes gravity only goes so far which is why you can still see light at the middle of our galaxy and still have a black hole there.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Chris R

      The surface of the sun is 5000K. The atmosphere above that surface is upwards of 7,000,000K. What we've been trying to determine is why the atmosphere of the sun is so much hotter than the surface. The latest evidence clearly supports the magnetic braiding theory. They don't go into much detail about why this braiding would make things so much hotter but it's because as the braids twist, rotate, and collapse, they end up compressing the plasma which, in turn, heats it up considerably. As for black holes – the reason why we can see light from the center of the galaxy even though a massive black hole resides there is because a) The horizon of the black hole is relatively small in comparison the vast number of suns in the galactic core and b) the light is only restricted at what is called the event horizon. This is spherical boundary at which the force of gravity over comes the speed of light. Anything outside of that spherical boundary wouldn't be dimmed or diminished. This means all of the suns and light on the other side of that boundary would be perfectly visible. Remember – we live in a universe of (at least) 3 dimensions – not flat planes of circles and lines.

      Lastly, science is a way to understand God's creation. By understanding the way in which nature, math, and physics work we better understand the true majesty of God.

      January 24, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • warren

      you doubt science then bring in a mythical creature......... you need mental help

      January 25, 2013 at 4:24 am |
    • Cpt. Branagan

      Poster Ray

      The idea and concept of God is highly flaweded and illogcal.
      A person with an open-mind is able to see that. Sadly you do not have an open-mind

      Rational arguments do not work with religious people; otherwise they wouldn't be religious.

      January 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
  15. Byrd

    It's not a star. It's a worm hole and the reason the core is cooler than the exterior is because there really is no exterior in any kind of solid or even plasma state. Instead, what we witness as a ball of fire or whatever is the frictive forces where three–dimensional space and two-dimensional space meet. It's only round as we perceive it because that is simply the nature of three-dimensional space.

    January 24, 2013 at 6:57 am |
    • Chris R

      Wow. I'd love to see the math you've come up with to support that.

      January 24, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  16. Jj

    God created heaven and earth in six days only and rested on the seventh day!

    January 24, 2013 at 4:12 am |
    • I AM

      I dod not rest, God does not get tired.

      January 24, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • caw

      I'm going looking for a god that's not so lazy. Geez he must be in a union.

      January 24, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • Doug

      I think you confused god with Chuck Norris.

      January 24, 2013 at 8:40 am |
    • snowboarder

      jj, there is absolutely no reason to believe any of that to be true.

      your god is just another of the myriad of gods invented by primitive man.

      January 24, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • cedar rapids

      why on earth would it take a god 6 days, and why would he need to rest?

      January 24, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • Byrd

      Then tell him to clean up all of the asteroids, radiation and other garbage he left lying and flying around. This place looks like a friggin' construction site. Jeez, what a slob.

      January 24, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Al Gore

      Actually, not a lot of people know this but God played golf on the seventh day, he just didn't want his wife to know so he told his golf buddies to say he was resting. After golfing, he definitely did NOT go to a strip club, get drunk and wreck the car either. It was like that when he found it.

      January 24, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • sumday

      Sigh, please go back and read Genesis again. Please notice that a day is only a dark and light cycle in G-d’s frame of reference- the sun wasn’t even created until like the 3rd or 4th day so how can you have 24hr day without the sun? Second notice that as soon as G-d rested on the 7th day, the creation story picks back up on the 6th day. The first narrative is from G-d’s time reference and what he has done the second narrative in from man’s time perspective and what we are currently going through. Now notice that from man’s time reference mankind never reaches or experiences the Sabbath time frame which means we are still in the 6th day of creation! For further proof when the Israelites angered G-d in the desert G-d swore in his wrath that that generation would not enter into his rest (the Sabbath) G-d could not have made that statement if mankind had already entered or passed G-d’s Sabbath (the 7th day). Paul further drives home the point when he says observing the Sabbath is a foreshadow of things TO COME! If observing the Sabbath is a foreshadow of things to come that must mean that mankind has not experienced it yet! I find most often it is not what is written that is incorrect but people interpretation or understanding of it that is incorrect.

      January 24, 2013 at 10:17 am |
      • Rudolf Rocker

        gad is a logical fallacy.get over the myth and move on please

        January 24, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  17. Freonpsandoz

    I don't understand why it should be "mysterious" that the temperature of the outer solar atmosphere is so high. Temperature is just a measure of the kinetic energy (speed) of the molecules, and when the atmosphere is less dense, molecules can move at higher speeds when bombarded with radiation. The temperature in the earth's thermosphere (over 50 miles up) can reach temperatures of 3,500 °F, but you would freeze to death because there are not enough molecules to impart sufficient heat to your body, in spite of the high temperature of the individual molecules.

    January 24, 2013 at 1:34 am |
    • Andrew

      PV=nrt.
      Based on that, I can't help but think that as pressure increases, temperature also increases.

      There's a reason for this, and is responsible for the breakdown of your logic. You seem to believe that when you have a high density enviornment, particles collide too quickly, thus slowing down and hence reducing the overall 'kinetic energy' of the system. Thus density hurts temperature.

      But that makes an implicit assumption based upon macroscopic observations which does not hold on a particle scale, that is, inelastic colissions. When you view a ball bouncing, it bounces to a smaller and smaller height each time, because some of its kinetic energy was converted into heat in compression of the ball etc etc.

      That isn't how things work when particles collide, instead they collide elastically, with conservation of energy being upheld. That means in a dense enviornment, you have the same 'kinetic energy' even if particles are constantly changing direction. (Protip, classic kinetic energy is defined as 1/2*m*v^2, meaning that regardless of direction, so -v or +v, energy would always be a positive term. It doesn't matter how often particles change direction, overall kinetic energy is saved)

      That is partly why this is so counter-intuitive. The denser the enviornment, the HOTTER you expect the temperature. It's how a disel engine works, unlike a standard ICE, there are no spark plugs. Instead the fuel ignites from the heat of compressing the fuel. I could literally cite thousands of other examples, but the point remains that while I understand where you are coming from, real life isn't that simple.

      January 24, 2013 at 1:54 am |
  18. GO_GOP

    What does it matter. Be a good Christian, pray regularly, donate to your church generously, seek Jesus and you path to heaven is assured. Science may be a fiction created by the devil himself for all we know.

    January 24, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • JagdTiger

      Lol you sir are crazy next your are going to say that god created earth in 7 days what a bunch of crap.

      January 24, 2013 at 1:10 am |
      • Jj

        Fod created heaven and earth in 6th days not seven, He rested in the seventh day!

        January 24, 2013 at 4:10 am |
    • Freonpsandoz

      ... or God may be a fiction created by man, for all we know.

      January 24, 2013 at 1:24 am |
      • cedar rapids

        oh we do know, and it most certainly is.

        January 24, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • JIB

      Really? You are very naive. People like yourself who bring religion or politics in to science are part of the problem. Your additude and people like yourself is what pushes younger people away from religion. You and your religion is a dying breed. Instead of your religion or cult (however you want to look at it) you should be worshiping LIFE and what is needed to continue living. Sorry to tell you this but Jesus doesn't make the world go around. Jesus doesn't make the sun come up every morning.

      January 24, 2013 at 1:36 am |
      • Jason

        The only difference between a religion and a cult is the number of members.

        January 24, 2013 at 2:10 am |
      • Knumb Knuts

        Hold on there, I think Cheeses do make the world go around. You better calm down before you get an Additudinal Hernia!

        January 24, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • David

      How about not staying stuck in the 19th century, getting with the program, and waking up into reality from la-la land?

      January 24, 2013 at 2:39 am |
    • Kvn_06360

      Are you all really that dumb? Go_GOP is not religious, he is a bigot and making fun of religion. Of being a bigot, like the rest of you he ignores the fact that many great scientist were and ARE very religious people. Just look up who first came up with the big bang theory!

      January 24, 2013 at 2:47 am |
      • lindaluttrell

        Troll sounds more like it...

        January 24, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • SixDegrees

      More and more, it is becoming apparent that what the Devil himself created was evangelical christianity, which preaches bigotry and hatred and intolerance.

      January 24, 2013 at 2:47 am |
      • rational

        Hear, hear!

        January 24, 2013 at 7:14 am |
    • snowboarder

      holy cow! what a bunch of malarky.

      January 24, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Mike

      You claim Science is the Devil's Fiction. I counter that Religion is a fiction created by priests to control the ignorant and take their money. Would you like to know which one of these statements is inherently more likely and has more evidence to support it?

      But, seriously, how is that relevant to the article? Science is about understanding. About asking questions and trying to find answers. It's not about clinging go some belief that -must- be taken on faith, because there's no actual evidence to support it.

      January 24, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Mike 71

      And leave the rest of us good citizens alone!

      January 24, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Chris R

      From a theological perspective the idea of the Devil (Satan, Lucifer, Asmodeous, what have you) is entirely unsupportable. We need to start with one basic assumption – God is omnipotent. I think you and I can agree on that assumption. If God is omnipotent there is no force conceivable that could oppose God. As such Satan can only *appear* to oppose God. Satan can't really be working against God because that would mean that God is powerless to stop Satan. Since we've assumed that God is omnipotent it is fundamentally contradictory for Satan to have the ability – in any way shape or form – to oppose God. That means that if we accept the premise of Satan we *must* accept that Satan works with the tacit approval of God. If we do not then we dismiss the concept of God as omnipotent. As such the things we blame on Satan are actually the responsibility of God. There can be no Satan without God's approval. If we decide to think of God as benevolent and loving the idea that Satan is allowed to perpetrate evil on the world is also contradictory. So you have some choices – God is either not omnipotent, God is not benevolent, or Satan doesn't exist and the evil and hurt we see in this world comes from the exercise of free will.

      While I believe in God I can't believe in Satan. All it does is diminish the power of God.

      January 24, 2013 at 11:18 am |
      • Tiamat333

        Actually there is the forth choice that God doesn't exist. Personally I don't believe that though due to some rather bizarre interventions in my life and science itself. When you add up all of the ridiculously improbable things that had to go just right after the moment of the Big Bang to create a habitable universe, the existence of a guiding force becomes self-evident.

        January 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm |
  19. Hugh Mann

    I just went to the Nature.com site to see this, but I think they are Liberals, so I left without watching the video

    January 24, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • Andrew

      Excuse me? You just wrote off Nature, the journal Nature, one of the oldest, most cited, most reputable journals in the world as a bunch of liberals and hence worthless?

      Nature has been known to miss the mark, but even Phys. Rev. Let. published Schön's papers, mistakes happen, but they get corrected. (Not like Schön would have any hope or prayer of publishing in physics again.)

      Writting off Nature sounds like something only someone with no interest in science or the community would do. You thus should remove yourself from any discussions on science, because you clearly do not care enough about the subject to distinguish good sources from bad.

      January 24, 2013 at 2:13 am |
      • rational

        I think Hugh Mann is ragging you...

        January 24, 2013 at 7:17 am |
  20. Homer10

    Wait a minute. I thought that was well established that CMEs were caused when large bunches of magnetic field lines break, and reconnect causing a huge release of energy. If the break happens above the surface, you get a brief flash, and possibly a solar quake under the break. If the break happens deep under the surface, you get a solar quake. If it happens close to or just under the surface, you can get a large CME. If the size of the magnetic areas is big, then the bang is very big. A good sized CME can involve 10,000 megatons of energy.

    January 24, 2013 at 12:05 am |
  21. richwhit

    Sad that even this great article is PC. Notice, no mention of the solar cycle's impact on climate and weather.

    January 23, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
    • Homer10

      Because the solar cycle influence is small compared to other influences.

      January 24, 2013 at 12:07 am |
      • jkflipflop

        Yeah, it only drives our entire weather system and keeps our planet inside a ultra-narrow temperature window. Let's not worry about that Canadian blackout. No influence at all. No sir.

        January 24, 2013 at 12:40 am |
    • Alex

      What reason is there for the article to bring that up?

      January 24, 2013 at 6:46 am |
    • Mike

      Because the research was on the sun itself, and not on its interaction with Terrestrial climate? That's not being PC. That's just focusing on the actual topic at hand.

      January 24, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  22. popeye1128

    I love this stuff!

    January 23, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
  23. Iagree

    BucketDrop, Well said, just like jupiter and Saturn, Sun is a huge ball of gas. 'Surface' is loosely used to refer to the opaque layer.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
    • elandauCNN

      Hi lagree, you are correct. When we say the sun's "surface" we mean "photosphere," which is the point where the sun appears to be opaque.

      http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr162/lect/sun/photosphere.html

      Thanks for reading!

      Elizabeth Landau,
      CNN

      January 24, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  24. Kingussiah

    The sun is hell, the more souls it gets the hotter it gets, it got enough souls/fuel to get us out of the ice age, dont believe me take a closer look at the picture, do you notice all of the faces and bodies trapped in the bands of fire and gas.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:21 pm |
    • Newt Gingrich

      Except the sun loses *fuel* with time. Using your irrational analogy that would mean those souls are forgiven and released away! LMAO

      January 23, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
      • Kingussiah

        The sun does not lose fuel idiot, it burns off fuel, thus the soul will not be released but only converted to some other form of gas or vapor!

        January 23, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
      • Russell's Teapot

        Kind of like how my car never loses fuel, it just burns it off?

        January 24, 2013 at 12:23 am |
    • John Rudmin

      Guess some of the souls are released as charged particles, which return all the way back and when they meet Earth's magnetic field, give glory and thanks as the beautiful Aurora Borealis!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
    • keplerfan

      Please do not pray on our science blogs and we won't think in your church!!!! Knucklehead!!!!!

      January 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm |
      • popeye1128

        The sun's core is extremely dense, kinda like some people.

        January 23, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
    • Homer10

      Interesting theory. Did the voices inside your head give you this idea?

      January 24, 2013 at 12:08 am |
    • I AM

      Thank you Dante !

      January 24, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • cedar rapids

      ok im going to claim you are trolling because no one can really be that dumb as to suggest the sun is hell or that they can see twisting bodies.
      yeah, trolling, certainly.

      January 24, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • mtjstr9997

      That is so funny, I had to laugh.

      January 24, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  25. MandoZink

    For amazing views of the sun in over a dozen wavelengths check out pictures from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) at this page:

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/science/sdo-wavelengths.html

    All the images are taken at the same time but at wildly different spectra. You can click on individual images for real-time large versions of each. Quite interesting.

    January 23, 2013 at 10:02 pm |
    • Kingussiah

      The sun is hell, the more souls it gets the hotter it gets, it got enough souls/fuel to get us out of the ice age, dont believe me take a closer look at the picture, do you notice all of the faces and bodies trapped in the bands of fire and gas.

      January 23, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
      • karuoun

        The Sun is not Hell, hell is a boring place, not hot like you seem to have been misled to believe.
        Additionally, the Sun is not the Lake of Fire, because it isn't on fire.
        Simple as that. NEXT.

        January 24, 2013 at 12:54 am |
  26. larry young

    One of the reason humans will never develop their full potential, here, on earth, or in the universe is that even a most straightforward article about the sun's corona by a scientific writer will produce put-downs and emotional responses by amateur astronomers. We are just too wrapped up in our egos and emotions as a species to know better. Those who can overcome this psychological baggage are too few and far between.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • roadrunner

      larry, are you saying something like: trying to wring ignorance out of the human race is like trying to empty lake eerie with a bucket?

      January 23, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
  27. Tiamat333

    The corona could be being heated by multiple factors. Back a couple years ago a study claimed that the constant rising and sinking of hydrogen bubbles the size of Texas(the granules you see in the photosphere closeups) due to convection creates so much noise that the sonic energy itself excites the corona to millions of degrees.

    January 23, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
  28. Brad Gee

    The sun is a mass of incandescent gas. A gigantic nuclear furnace where hydrogen is fused into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees.

    January 23, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • Mike

      Perfect response. I love They Might Be Giants.

      January 23, 2013 at 9:39 pm |
    • John Rudmin

      Not just that...the sun is a miasma of incandescent plasma! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLkGSV9WDMA

      January 23, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
  29. Josef Bleaux

    But the Sun doesn't have a surface. It's a giant ball of plasma caused by the equivalent of an astronomical number of hydrogen bombs going off each second. No surface.

    January 23, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Chris

      I'm so proud of you for acknowledging the "astronomical number of hydrogen bombs", but the sun indeed has a surface. Take a good look at the sun. You see that ball? The edge of the ball is the surface. Never mind trying to explain it with traditional solid-liquid-gas physics. That is clearly naive. But equally as clearly, there is a surface. You see it, which is more that can be said of many surfaces. You see that faint stuff beyond the surface? That's the stuff these folks are discussing.

      Next question? And from an adult, please...

      January 23, 2013 at 8:48 pm |
      • Ray

        Do you really need to be such a putz?

        January 23, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
      • wirenut

        ok my turn I know what sunspots are but why does the sun have them?

        January 23, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
      • pbernasc

        and yet you would walk through if you tried to step onto that surface...
        so what is a surface then?
        I think I have an answer: it's the thin membrane of the hot air balloon that contains your ego and that will explode into nothing as soon as try to think.. so for your own ego's well being .. do not think.

        January 23, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
      • The Dude

        When someone tries to make points on a subject they obviously have no knowledge of, they deserve to be talked to like a child.

        January 23, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
      • sqeptiq

        Same reason old people have spots on them...old age.

        January 23, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
      • Statistic

        You're absolutely right.

        January 23, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
    • Richard Krupski

      There is a point where the corona meets the "sun" itself and the density of the material that makes up the sun increases sharply, like the contrast between the density of air and earth (or ocean). A surface is relative, it's the difference between a lightly dense material and a more dense material. So even if you had a light gas bubble around a smaller dense bubble of gas, the very outer part of the inner denser bubble of gas would technically be the "surface". You do not need to have a solid to have a "surface", there is no such requirement.

      January 23, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
      • BucketDrop

        Well said.

        January 23, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
    • BucketDrop

      The sun has many surfaces. What we see is simply a surface that is opaque, preventing visible photons (and also much of the IR range) from escaping. After-all, that is what dirt does. Dirt also holds us up against gravity's pull. I suppose if we think about what would hold up an object made of mostly carbon on the sun against the pull of the sun's gravity (neglecting atomic destruction) we would get down to the iron (and other element) core, which is through the plasma opaque layer. I think Wikipedia has a nice page on the sun.

      January 23, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
    • Meri

      Definition of surface: The outer or the topmost boundary of an object.

      January 23, 2013 at 9:59 pm |
  30. James Collins

    way to go guys,well done

    January 23, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
  31. jamessavik

    5 M$ is exceptionally cheap for a space mission and any money spent on studying our sun is a wise investment.

    We need to know all that we can about space weather. It makes a big impact on our satellites and here on the ground.

    Nicely done.

    January 23, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • greg

      If your tied to the tracks with no way off whats the use of having a telescope to see the train sooner?

      January 23, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
      • Rujie

        Many of our modern inventions stems from nasa research and development and not to mention providing real heroes for our kids to look up to instead of football players and celebrities.

        January 24, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  32. salathieljones

    Reblogged this on The World Outside of Yourself.

    January 23, 2013 at 8:09 pm |

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