Coronal Loops Might Not Be Loops At All

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Coronal Loops Might Not Be Loops At All

Post by fred8615 »

We’ve all seen the gorgeous images and videos of coronal loops. They’re curved magnetic forms that force brightly glowing plasma to travel along their path. They arch up above the Sun, sometimes for thousands of kilometres, before reconnecting with the Sun again.

But a new study says that some of what we’re seeing aren’t loops at all. Instead, they’re a type of optical illusion. Do we know the Sun as well as we think we do?

The Sun’s corona is the outermost layer of its atmosphere. It’s made of plasma, which contains lots of charged particles. That means that it readily responds to electromagnetic fields. The Sun has a powerful magnetic field that varies by place and time. Sometimes that magnetism drives the plasma high above the corona, forming fantastical structures called coronal loops that eventually reconnect to the Sun’s surface. Some of these structures can last for days or even for weeks.

“This is an entirely new paradigm of understanding the Sun’s atmosphere.”

Anna Malanushenko, lead author.

But if this new study is correct, then it means that many of what appear to be loops aren’t loops.

The new study is published in The Astrophysical Journal. Its title is “The Coronal Veil.” Anna Malanushenko, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, is the lead author.

The study is based on an advanced 3D simulation of the Sun’s corona. It allowed scientists to isolate individual coronal loops by slicing the corona into distinct sections. The researchers found some loops, but their results showed that many of what looked like loops weren’t loops at all.

“I have spent my entire career studying coronal loops,” said lead author Malanushenko. “I was excited that this simulation would give me the opportunity to study them in more detail. I never expected this. When I saw the results, my mind exploded. This is an entirely new paradigm of understanding the Sun’s atmosphere.”

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Frederick J. Barnett
"Someone's got to take the responsibility if the job's going to get done!! Do you think that's easy?!" Gregory Peck - The Guns Of Navarone
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