New images made by NASA’s Hi-C telescope show the presence of magnetic threads up to 500 kilometers wide, filled with electrified gasses.
Recently released images of the Sun reveal that its outer layer is filled with “magnetic threads” formed by plasma at millions of degrees. The images are the result of a research conducted by scientists at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), in the United Kingdom, and published in the Astrophysical Journal.
The extremely high-resolution photos were taken by NASA’s High-Resolution Coronal Imager (or Hi-C) telescope. According to experts, the device can identify structures up to 70 kilometers in the solar atmosphere, equivalent to 0.01% of the size of the star. “These new Hi-C images give us a remarkable insight into the Sun’s atmosphere,” said Amy Winebarger, principal investigator at Hi-C, in a statement.
For Professor Robert Walsh, who led the new research, the photos provided by Hi-C are extremely detailed and important for our understanding of the Sun. “If you are watching a football match on television in standard definition, the football pitch looks green and uniform,” compared the researcher. “Watch the same game in ultra-HD and the individual blades of grass can jump out at you – and that’s what we’re able to see with the Hi-C images.”
The new images reveal the presence of magnetic threads up to 500 kilometers wide where electrified gasses flow from side to side. According to the scientists, what causes the movement of this material and the formation of the plasma threads is still a mystery. Therefore, the team now intends to study how these threads are formed and how their presence interferes with solar flares and storms.
“This is a fascinating discovery that could better inform our understanding of the flow of energy through the layers of the Sun and eventually down to Earth itself,” said Tom Williams, a UCLan postdoctoral researcher who worked on Hi-C data. “This is so important if we are to model and predict the behaviour of our life-giving star.”