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Solar Flare Produces Heat of 7 Million Degrees

A high resolution, ultraviolet telescope (Hi-C) that inadvertently captured a 90-mile solar eruption on the Sun, earlier this week, may hold the answers to the perplexing question as to why the surface of the sun has significantly lower temperatures than the outer most part of its atmosphere.

For many years, scientists have believed that the sun’s magnetic field was the source of producing high levels of ultra-energy that lent itself to manifesting a flaring corona (the out layer of the atmosphere – not something you drink on Cinco de Mayo) with temperatures reaching 7 million degrees Fahrenheit. That’s quite an increase in temperature, considering that the surface of the sun is about 10,000 degrees.

However, the Hi-C telescope recently discovered that the increased heat from the corona flares was likely due to interwoven magnetic fields (like braided hair) that released energy when these fields, or braids, relaxed.

“I had no idea we would see structures like that in the corona. Seeing these braids was very new to me,” said astrophysicist Jonathan Cirtain with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

While scientists agree that more observations are required in order to further study the phenomenon of “magnetic braiding,” they are confident that they have the right equipment to do it – the Hi-C has the ability to see something the size of a dime from over 10 miles away.

Scientists say that studying the corona of the sun will enable them to develop more sophisticated forecast models for space weather, which can improve satellite function as well as the technology of our planet.

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