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Space Science

Mystery of Sun's Outer Atmosphere Solved 56

xp65 writes "For decades, scientists have puzzled over the mystery of why temperatures in the solar corona, the sun's outer atmosphere, soar to several million Kelvin (K) — much hotter than temperatures nearer the sun's surface. New observations made with instruments aboard Japan's Hinode satellite reveal the culprit to be nanoflares. Nanoflares are small, sudden bursts of heat and energy. 'They occur within tiny strands that are bundled together to form a magnetic tube called a coronal loop,' says astrophysicist James Klimchuk. Coronal loops are the fundamental building blocks of the thin, translucent gas known as the sun's corona. The discovery that nanoflares play an important and perhaps dominant role in coronal heating paves the way to understanding how the sun affects Earth and its atmosphere."
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Mystery of Sun's Outer Atmosphere Solved

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  • by trav242 ( 645556 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @10:05AM (#29075773)
    This is one of the first things I asked my fiancee when she was studying solar physics (specifically magnetohydrodynamics or MHD). The answer I always got was "we don't know yet." It's nice to see some new research in this area, coupled with an explanation that a non-physicist can at least grasp.
    • Who's your fiancee? Is she still in the field?
      • by trav242 ( 645556 )
        Sara Petty. Unfortunately, she moved from Solar to Extra-Galactic about two years ago. Some of her early graduate research at GSFC was in MHD. Now she does something with galaxy morphology. I'm not a physicist, though... so I just smile and nod ;)
  • by distantbody ( 852269 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @10:17AM (#29075807) Journal
    Are they advocating a hands-on approach to rocketry?
  • alternative (Score:3, Funny)

    by binaryseraph ( 955557 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @11:18AM (#29076083)
    Clearly the sun is producing way too much heat and energy- wasting its resources by not internalizing its combustion. I think we need to ban the sun, have a few rallies and focus on greener alternatives untill it can make changes.
    • flamebait?! ok, no saturday morning humor allowed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sumdumass ( 711423 )

        Your comment was marked flamebait because with the article's wording "The discovery that nanoflares play an important and perhaps dominant role in coronal heating paves the way to understanding how the sun affects Earth and its atmosphere" along with your mocking the global warming zealots attempts of banning all things that don't fit their world hit too close to home.

        The science is settled BTW, we already know all there is to know about how the sun warms the Earth and what causes global warming. Any inform

        • Yeah... Instead of the 2 paragraph response talking about my understanding of global warming, and myself being a "global warming zealot" I think I'll sum up my response with: Get over your self.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by sumdumass ( 711423 )

            I think you don't know what I know. The comment was a bashing on the mods who modded you down, not an attack on you.

            The zealots say the science is settled, that it's a fact and undeniable, the article says this discovery paves the way to understanding how the sun affects Earth and its atmosphere, You comment joked about their attempts to ban everything that's detrimental to the earth as they know it (or at least that's how it is perceived), that is why you were modded Flamebait.

            The point I was making is tha

            • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

              ah, gotcha. Right- so sorry i missread that. Funny thing about slashdot- if you dare speak ill (or crack a joke about): Linux,google,environment or apple you are sure to get trouced. There is an almost one-sided view that all users must take or face some sort of arbitrary modding. Though i guess its evident that I dont read the posts right either, so maybe i have it coming. Sorry again for that!
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by sumdumass ( 711423 )

                ah, gotcha. Right- so sorry i missread that.

                I wrote it sort of sloppily in an attempt to mock the mods. I doesn't seem as clear as I thought it did at first so the confusion is probably my fault.

                I find it funny when something like that is modded down and need to jump in to support the people. I have relatively good karma and it takes a couple more mod points to drop my posts into obscurity. I also like replying to the down modded points so as people will hit the parent button to see what the hell I'm talk

  • by arcctgx ( 607542 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @01:58PM (#29077085)

    It's on arXiv: http://arxiv.org/abs/0904.0878 [arxiv.org]

  • the real culprit is a quantum flux.


  • OK, these new flares are small. I get it. But are these new flares 1 billion times smaller than a 'normal' solar flare? That's what the prefix indicates.
  • Mystery NOT solved (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Eukariote ( 881204 ) on Saturday August 15, 2009 @06:15PM (#29078983)

    The "explanation" shifts the blame to "nanoflares". Why? Well, because "These temperatures can only be produced by impulsive energy bursts". But just because that is the only mechanism James Klimchuk can think of does not mean that there is no other mechanism. Indeed, anomalous extreme temperatures have been observed in coronal-alike plasmas under laboratory conditions: http://arxiv.org/ftp/physics/papers/0509/0509127.pdf [arxiv.org]. No "nanoflares" in that 0.4 Torr Pyrex cylinder.

    This is typical overconfidence in theory. The reasoning is: nature must obey our currently accepted theories, and within the context of those theories I see only one possible cause, so that must be it. Such hubris. The accepted theories are likely to be incomplete, and might be downright wrong in places.

    Then there is the title of the post: "Mystery of Sun's Outer Atmosphere Solved" Finely tuned to plant the mistaken belief in the mind of the Slashdot crowd that it has been figured out. Nothing more to see here. Please move along. After all, we don't want people to get a clue as to what is actually producing all that energy needed to keep the corona piping hot, do we?

    • by Seedy2 ( 126078 )

      The biggest problem with science reporting is that the reporter, even if they understand what the scientist says, has to "dumb it down" for the masses. Depending on the publication, there is a different level of "dumb it down", presumably to match the expected readership. That all goes out the window when the reporter DOESN'T understand the science, and is just reporting "news". Most scientists who haven't made a point of talking to laymen in their field suck at dumbing down their own work, so either they

  • "The discovery that nanoflares play an important and perhaps dominant role in coronal heating paves the way to understanding how the sun affects Earth and its atmosphere."

    People, couldn't we just be happy that we better understand something about the universe without trying to contrive some kind of relevance? Knowledge is valuable for its own sake. Science doesn't need an immediate application to be important.

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus