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Measuring shape of magnetic field of corona

Date: 07 June 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

In a new study, scientists have measured the shape of the coronal magnetic field with higher spatial resolution. They used total solar eclipse observations as data.

 

Background

The Sun’s corona is the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere. And the stream of energized, charged particles, primarily electrons, and protons, flowing outward from the Sun’s corona is called the solar wind. 

 

Details

  • The properties of the solar corona are a result of the sun’s complex magnetic field, which is produced in the solar interior and broadens outwards.

  • Significant technological advances in recent decades have shifted much of the focus to space-based observations at wavelengths of light not accessible from the ground. Despite these advances, some aspects of the corona can only be studied during total solar eclipses.

  • Scientists traced the pattern of the distribution of magnetic field lines in the corona. For this, they used an automatic tracing method applied to images of the corona taken during 14 eclipses across the past two decades. This data provided the chance to study the changes in the corona over two 11-year magnetic cycles of the sun.

  • They detected that the pattern of magnetic fields of the sun’s corona is highly structured, with structures seen at size scales down to the resolution limit of the cameras used for the observations.

  • They also observed that the pattern changes with time. To quantify these changes, he measured the magnetic field angle relative to the sun’s surface.

  • During periods of minimum solar activity, the corona’s field emanated almost straight out of the sun near the equator and poles, while it came out at a variety of angles at mid-latitudes.

  • During the solar activity maximum, on the other hand, the coronal magnetic field was far less organized and more radial.

  • The outcomes of the study challenge the current assumptions used in coronal modelling, which often assumes that the coronal magnetic field is radial beyond 2.5 solar radii. Instead, this work found that the coronal field was often non-radial to at least four solar radii.

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