George Doscheck studies sun’s surface, corona

George Doschek: The Hinode mission was designed to study the sun all the way from the surface up into this hot corona.

That’s solar physicist George Doschek of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. Working with NASA, Doschek is part of an international space mission called Hinode, Japanese for ‘sunrise.’ He spoke to EarthSky on what scientists are learning about the sun’s atmosphere – called the corona.

George Doschek: The surface of the sun is only 5500 degrees, but up in the atmosphere itself, the temperature rises to 1.2 million degrees, on average.

Unlike Earth’s atmosphere, which is made up of air, the sun’s corona is composed of hot, ionized gases that glow like a neon sign. We asked Doschek why the corona is so hot.

George Doschek: We don’t know the answer yet, but we feel that the basic energy comes from the boiling motions at the surface of the sun – the gas is moving around and moving around and tangling up the magnetic field. The magnetic field stores energy, and this is somehow released higher up in the atmosphere to heat gas up to a million degrees, and even higher.

The sun releases pent up energy through solar flares and even more powerful coronal mass ejections, which can disrupt satellite communications here on Earth. Hinode’s space telescopes will monitor the sun until 2013 and beyond.

Our thanks to:
Dr. George A. Doschek
Space Science Division
Naval Research Laboratory
Washington, DC

February 11, 2009

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