Shining light on heating the solar corona

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Credit: NASA

In a paper published today in Nature Astronomy, researchers report the first ever clear images of nanojets—bright thin lights that travel perpendicular to the magnetic structures in the solar atmosphere, called the corona—in a process that reveals the existence of one of the potential coronal heating candidates: nanoflares.

In pursuit of understanding why the Sun’s atmosphere is so much hotter than the surface, and to help differentiate between a host of theories about what causes this heating, researchers turn to NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) mission. IRIS was finely tuned with a high-resolution imager to zoom in on specific hard-to-see events on the Sun.

Nanoflares are small explosions on the Sun—but they are difficult to spot.

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