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The Sun’s sizzling corona is so hot thanks to tiny nanoflares, new evidence suggests. Our Sun’s outer atmosphere is mysteriously much hotter than its surface. One possible mechanism is nanoflares: tiny explosions on the solar surface that randomly occur and rapidly dissipate.
The outermost atmospheric layer is the corona, which gets really hot, almost 2,000,000 degrees F. This is where the solar wind begins. These layers can only be seen during total solar eclipses.
About 80 years ago, scientists found that the temperature of the solar corona is actually much hotter than the surface, at a few million degrees celsius. The high temperatures of the corona cause it to expand into space as a continuous outflow of plasma called the solar wind.
The corona is the outer atmosphere of the Sun. It extends many thousands of kilometers (miles) above the visible “surface” of the Sun, gradually transforming into the solar wind that flows outward through our solar system. The material in the corona is an extremely hot but very tenuous plasma.
What is the color of the solar corona? The majority of people perceive the corona during eclipse as white or slightly greenish-white. However bluish-white, yellowish-white or reddish-white are often reported too.
When our sun burst into creation, it was a mass of swirling gases that included a core or center that is compressing atoms together in a process called ‘nuclear fusion’. This intense pressure creates heat at temperatures that are around 15 million degrees C. The sun has an ‘atmosphere’ that retains the heat.
|Core||Radius of 150,000 km||10,000,000 K|
|Convective Zone||200,000 km thick||500,000 K|
|Photosphere||500 km thick||5800 K|
|Chromosphere||10,000 km thick||4,000 to 400,000 K|
|Corona||5,000,000 km thick||1,000,000 K|
A corona (Latin for ‘crown’, in turn derived from Ancient Greek κορώνη, korṓnē, ‘garland, wreath’) is an aura of plasma that surrounds the Sun and other stars.
The Sun is the largest object in our solar system. It is composed of seven layers: three inner layers and four outer layers. The inner layers are the core, the radiative zone and the convection zone, while the outer layers are the photosphere, the chromosphere, the transition region and the corona.
Inside the sun
Scientists have found that small solar flare could help explain why the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, is so much hotter than the surface. The corona is hundreds to thousands of times hotter than the Sun’s visible surface, the photosphere.
The solar wind doesn’t slow down as it leaves the sun — it speeds up. Some particles shoot out of the corona with so much energy that they approach the speed of light. And perhaps most baffling of all, the corona is hundreds of times hotter than the sun’s surface.
But even lava can’t hold a candle to the sun! At its surface (called the “photosphere”), the sun’s temperature is a whopping 10,000° F! That’s about five times hotter than the hottest lava on Earth. A temperature of 27 million degrees Fahrenheit is more than 12,000 times hotter than the hottest lava on Earth!
While lava can be as hot as 2200 F, some flames can be much hotter, such as 3600 F or more, while a candle flame can be as low as 1800 F. Lava is hotter than a typical wood or coal-buring fire, but some flames, such as that of an acetylene torch, is hotter than lava. Red lava is colder than candle flames.
The idea of a second sun in our solar system is not as bizarre as it might sound. In fact, Alpha Centauri, our solar system’s nearest neighbor, is a binary system. Astronomers estimate that around half of all stars in our galaxy have at least one companion.