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Current Affairs

NASA’s IRIS spots nanojets

Date: 23 September 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

Solar astronomers using NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) mission have now discovered very fast and bursty nanojets, the telltale signature of reconnection-based nanoflares resulting in coronal heating.

 

Background

It has long been hypothesized that the heating results from a myriad of tiny magnetic energy outbursts called nanoflares, driven by the fundamental process of magnetic reconnection.

 

Details

  • The researchers combined the many observations with advanced simulations to recreate the events they saw on the Sun.

  • The models showed that the nanojets were a telltale signature of magnetic reconnection and nanoflares, contributing to coronal heating in the simulations.

  • Nanoflares are small explosions on the Sun, approximately nine orders of magnitude lower than solar flares, but they are difficult to spot.

  • They are very fast and tiny, meaning they are hard to pick out against the bright surface of the Sun. Nanojets are considered key evidence of the presence of nanoflares.

  • These telltale flashes are nanojets — heated plasma traveling so fast that they appear on images as bright thin lines seen within the magnetic loops on the Sun.

  • Each nanojet is believed to be initiated by a process known as magnetic reconnection where twisted magnetic fields explosively realign.

  • One reconnection can set off another reconnection, creating an avalanche of nanojets in the solar corona, a process that could create the energy that is heating the corona.