The Spooky Sun

Oct 31, 2006
The Spooky Sun
The sun's corona glows eerily orange in this image taken on October 28, 2006 by the X-ray Telescope on board the Hinode (formerly Solar-B) spacecraft. The bright region in the inset box shows magnetic fields that have just emerged from the solar interior, producing a new active region. During the current, quiet phase of solar activity (sunspot minimum), the corona is dominated by small regions of closed magnetic field (called X-ray Bright Points) and large dark areas where the magnetic field of the sun extends into interplanetary space (called Coronal Holes).

Just in time for Halloween, astronomers have taken a haunting new portrait of the sun. In this color-coded image from the Hinode spacecraft (formerly Solar-B), the sun glows eerily orange as though celebrating with earthly spooks.

The photograph shows the sun's corona - the top layer of the sun's atmosphere, a region of extremely rarefied gases heated to millions of degrees. During the current, quiet phase of solar activity (sunspot minimum), the corona is dominated by small regions of closed magnetic field (called X-ray Bright Points) and large dark areas where the magnetic field of the sun extends into interplanetary space (called Coronal Holes). There is also a low level of activity as a few small active regions emerge from inside the sun.

The bright region in the inset box shows magnetic fields that have just emerged from the solar interior, producing a new active region.

When the image is seen at full resolution, compact loops of 3-million-degree gas are clearly seen. Movies made from sequences of images will show how the corona evolves, and what conditions lead to the entire range of solar activity from flares and large-scale eruptions to small-scale magnetic reconnection events and explosive jets.

The Hinode spacecraft carries three telescopes. This image was taken with the X-ray Telescope developed jointly by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Hinode's X-ray Telescope is the highest resolution solar X-ray telescope ever flown. It will show the structure and dynamics of the corona over a wide range of temperatures and a broad field of view.

Source: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Explore further: Astronomers solve decades-long mystery of the 'lonely old stars'

Related Stories

Mission studies the Sun in soft X-rays

Mar 24, 2015

At any given moment, our sun emits a range of light waves far more expansive than what our eyes alone can see: from visible light to extreme ultraviolet to soft and hard X-rays. Different wavelengths can ...

The mystery of nanoflares

Mar 20, 2015

When you attach the prefix "nano" to something, it usually means "very small." Solar flares appear to be the exception.

Astronaut plus Proba minisats snap solar eclipse

Mar 20, 2015

As today's partial solar eclipse crossed Europe, it was also visible from space. ESA's Proba-2 captured a near-total eclipse from orbit, at the same time as its sister minisatellite Proba-V peered down to ...

NASA's SDO sees two coronal holes

Mar 18, 2015

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, captured this solar image on March 16, 2015, which clearly shows two dark patches, known as coronal holes. The larger coronal hole of the two, near the southern ...

Recommended for you

Dusty substructure in a galaxy far far away

16 hours ago

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) have combined high-resolution images from the ALMA telescopes with a new scheme for undoing the distorting effects of a powerful gravitational ...

ALMA disentangles complex birth of giant stars

16 hours ago

A research group led by Aya Higuchi, a researcher at Ibaraki University, conducted observations of the massive-star forming region IRAS 16547-4247 with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). ...

Image: The tumultuous heart of the Large Magellanic Cloud

Mar 31, 2015

A scene of jagged fiery peaks, turbulent magma-like clouds and fiercely hot bursts of bright light. Although this may be reminiscent of a raging fire or the heart of a volcano, it actually shows a cold cosmic ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.