George Doschek: Well, the sun has an atmosphere. It extends all the way from the surface of the sun, past the Earth.
That’s solar physicist George Doschek of the Naval Research Laboratory. He’s one of the science investigators on the Hinode mission, a space observatory pointed at our sun.
George Doschek: The Hinode mission is going to tell us much about how the atmosphere of the sun is produced and how it evolves, and it’s going to enable us to predict events like flares and coronal mass ejections much better than we can now. At least that’s our hope.
Coronal mass ejections, Doschek said, burst from the sun, and if they reach Earth they can wreak havoc on satellites.
George Doschek: When we look at an active region, a bright region of a sun spot with x-rays or extreme ultraviolet emissions, we see these flows coming out of the sun. Essentially, it’s material coming into the corona. And some of it may make up what we call the solar wind.
What causes the solar wind, an endless stream of charged particles from the sun, has until now been a complete mystery to science
George Doschek: Another thing that we’ve been able to study very well is how the gas in these active regions is confined to magnetic loops, and this is telling us a lot about the models that we have to produce coronal heating.
Doschek said the three-year Hinode mission might help explain why the sun’s corona, its plasma atmosphere, is about a million degrees hotter than its surface.
Our thanks today to NASA: explore, discover, understand.
Our thanks to:
Naval Research Laboratory
One of the Principal Investigators of the Hinode Solar-B Mission
The image above shows the variation of sunspot number over time for solar cycle 4 (which began around 1785) and cycle 23, which began around 1996. For more, see the Hinode (Solar B) page.
In his years with EarthSky, Jorge Salazar conducted thousands of in-depth interviews with scientists. He knows a lot about as diverse as nanotechnology, ecosystem-based management, climate change, global health, international environmental treaties, astrophysics and cosmology, and environmental security. Jorge currently works as a Technical Writer/Editor for the Texas Advanced Computing Center, which designs and deploys powerful advanced computing technologies and innovative software solutions for scientific researchers.