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Mystery of Sun's Outer Atmosphere Solved

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the professor-plum-in-the-corona-with-the-nanoflare dept.

Space 56

xp65 writes "For decades, scientists have puzzled over the mystery of why temperatures in the solar corona, the sun's outer atmosphere, soar to several million Kelvin (K) — much hotter than temperatures nearer the sun's surface. New observations made with instruments aboard Japan's Hinode satellite reveal the culprit to be nanoflares. Nanoflares are small, sudden bursts of heat and energy. 'They occur within tiny strands that are bundled together to form a magnetic tube called a coronal loop,' says astrophysicist James Klimchuk. Coronal loops are the fundamental building blocks of the thin, translucent gas known as the sun's corona. The discovery that nanoflares play an important and perhaps dominant role in coronal heating paves the way to understanding how the sun affects Earth and its atmosphere."

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1st Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29075603)

1st Post

Nice outdated explanation (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29075615)

In other words, this is what took so long: "how can we come up with an explanation for an outer atmosphere that's much hotter than the surface, while ignoring the fact that the solar wind FITS THE VERY DEFINITION of an electric current, and more importantly, ignoring the fact that none of our ad hoc theories had any predictive power whatsoever?"

The solar wind is the flow of charged particles away from the Sun. A flow of charged particles is the definition of an electric current. If the Sun is electrically powered then of course its outer atmosphere is hotter than its surface, and of course it doesn't produce as many neutrinos as we would expect. By the way, "magnetic field lines" have about as much physical reality as lines of latitude and longitude, i.e. none. They don't "reconnect" to produce energetic events. Ask an electrical engineer.

The only legitimate scientific objection to the Electric Universe idea is that we don't know where all the energy came from, originally, to produce all of the charge separation. That's not a big problem though, because the Big Bang theory has a similar problem - we don't know where all the energy came from, originally, to produce the initial "Bang". Either theory requires an equal leap of faith, or an equal amount of uncertainty.

Re:Nice outdated explanation (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29075629)

Mod -1 crackpot

Actually the OP might be correct... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29075907)

Because Eugene Parker, an astrophysicist, put forward the idea in 1987 that microflares may provide the mechanism behind the heating of the sun's corona and the mechanism behind microflares is hypothesized to be magnetic reconnection.

And from Wikipedia: The Magnetic reconnection theory relies on the solar magnetic field to induce electric currents in the solar corona. The electric currents then collapse suddenly, releasing energy as heat and wave energy in the corona.

So it would appear that electric currents are involved in the heating of the sun's corona.

Re:Nice outdated explanation (4, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 5 years ago | (#29075679)

If the Sun is electrically powered...

Indeed. If you look closely with filtered binoculars (10x magnification or so will do fine), you can make out darker areas on the surface, which spell "Philips", just like any other electrically powered lightbulb.

Or, to put it another way... the Sun is not "powered by electricity". It's essentially a huge, ongoing, thermonuclear reaction.

Re:Nice outdated explanation (1)

Vu1turEMaN (1270774) | about 5 years ago | (#29075787)

Don't force your Electric Sun God on ME!!!

Re:Nice outdated explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29075805)

That's pretty funny. But it's about as correct as me saying, "Sorry for all the 'nanoflares', I had granola this morning and burritos this afternoon. If the sun wasn't so drunk, he would just stop lighting my flares and laughing insanely each time."

Reconnection (1)

Crispy Critters (226798) | about 5 years ago | (#29076207)

Field lines are a metaphor useful in understanding certain physical processes. Ask "any electrical engineer" what happens when a voltage opposes a current. The answer is heating. Ask "any electrical engineer" if energy is stored in magnetic fields. The answer is yes. Reconnection is a way of describing the change in magnetic topology during resistive heating; it is useful when the large-scale magnetic fields are better known than the small-scale electric fields. It is entirely equivalent the same electrical concepts we learned in high school.

See and understand the effect of poor moderation (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29076423)

electric universe is a legitimate scientific theory, it's just not a mainstream theory. it's not automatically "flamebait" just to mention it. when i post something like this and it gets modded Flamebait, when it clearly is not Flamebait but is relevant to the discussion and highlights an alternative viewpoint, it makes me feel like I should have just posted a nigger joke instead. sorry, no offense intended at all towards black people or anything like that. it's just that there seems to be no point in actual discussion of certain subjects as they have become like religious themes with no dissent permitted. the proof is that an alternative theory is treated as heresy, instantly modded down as though it were a racist joke or a GNAA post. apparently the mods will only allow me to discuss the article in mechanical or gravitational terms, which would be nice except that MOST MATTER IN SPACE IS ELECTRICALLY CONDUCTIVE PLASMA. look it up if you don't believe me. anyway with such rigid censorship in effect, you sure as hell aren't going to have good conversation about these subjects so you might as well just be a disruptive jackass and have some fun. what's your incentive not to, exactly? the alternative is to wonder why you bothered to try and seriously discuss something that's supposed to be scientific but ends up being religious. when slashdot just becomes overrun with trolls, remember that there were people who tried to make serious non-trollish posts and you mods basically told them to fuck off, so you will get the low signal-to-noise ratio that you are asking for.

Re:See and understand the effect of poor moderatio (1, Interesting)

Latinhypercube (935707) | about 5 years ago | (#29077663)

Don't be disheartened. Since we don't even know the mechanisms behind Gravity I find it hilarious it has so many zealots. We can't find it on a subatomic level, and it doesn't work as expected on a galactic level. It also predicts that 96% of the universe is invisible to us. I would say at the very least that we understand Electricity far better than we understand Gravity.

Re:See and understand the effect of poor moderatio (4, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 5 years ago | (#29079445)

Which is why I find it truly amazing that we have ANY zealots in the fields of science. if there is ONE thing we have learned of in the past 100 years it is this: The forces at work in just the universe we can see is on a truly incredible scale, and with every new piece of hardware, with every new scientific telescope or collider, we learn that we are truly at our infancy at this stage when it comes to understanding the universe.

Is the universe electric? Fuck if I know! The simple fact is we don't really have a definitive answer on much of anything ATM, because all our models break down at the sub atomic or immense scale of galaxies. trust me, all this stuff that folks are so sure about now will probably turn out to be as much bullshit as the surety that the world was flat. All we can do is put forth new ideas, no matter how crazy they may seem, and test and prove or disprove them. And with each new advance we will get another tiny piece of the puzzle and maybe in a few centuries if we don't blow ourselves up or have a natural disaster we may finally figure out WTF is going on here.

But putting someone down for looking at things a different way gets us nowhere. We have to dream, and look outside the box, and come up with new ways and new ideas and new uses for the machines and the data we have so far. Because that is how we learn folks. Questions and theories and possible dead ends that will hopefully point us in another direction that is more on the money. I for one am happy to hear and look at any theory that helps explain where we are and what we know about this gigantic wonderland around us. just because something can't be proven ATM doesn't mean that in 50 years we won't trip over something and go " I get it!". Zealotry and the suppression of differing viewpoints is never a good idea. If we don't constantly challenge our notions and put for new theories, then how will we learn?

Re:See and understand the effect of poor moderatio (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29080151)

'zactly. If the past 1000 years has taught us anything it's that mainstream scientists like to shout down people with theories that challenge their dogma until those theories are proven correct. Then they pat the guy on the back and say "Oops, sorry, you were right, we were all wrong. Look how willing to learn we all are. You're now our new hero. But if anyone challenges this new dogma we're gonna kick his ass."

Re:See and understand the effect of poor moderatio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29082321)

So go and find evidence that your theories are correct. Have the better theory, win the Nobel.

Don't get a fucking persecution complex and claim that everyone else is wrong because they hate you.

If you're not willing to find supporting evidence, and you are willing to ignore flaws and contradicting evidence in your own theory, then you can go fuck yourself with barbed wire for all that anyone will care.

Re:Nice outdated explanation (0, Troll)

Latinhypercube (935707) | about 5 years ago | (#29077539)

Mod above post +1 inspired genius... When you realize the government has only just 'allowed' the mass production of wireless energy, especially since it was invented 100 years ago. You can see that there is a movement to suppress concepts of free electric energy, or widespread electrical transport within the universe. I wonder who might be against that... Power Companies, Military...

Re:Nice outdated explanation (2, Insightful)

Jesus_666 (702802) | about 5 years ago | (#29079087)

So the sun being perceived as a thermonuclear as opposed to an electrical phenomenon somehow works in favor of the power companies? Or is it the military? I really have no idea how the Electrical Universe not being mainstream somehow keeps us from having free energy. If you can use EU to gather energy from nowhere, all you need to do is implement it. And no, the big companies can hardly do anything against it if you open-source your findings and spam it across half the internet. The Streisand effect works.

Re:Nice outdated explanation (2, Interesting)

buckethead (133919) | about 5 years ago | (#29078207)

When the dark matter/dark energy theories first started coming around, my first thought was, "That sounds like a fudge." The universe was not behaving the way theory predicts - the rotation rates of the galaxies did not go the way that gravity predicted. So, dark matter was proposed to create more mass where none could be seen, to restore balance to the universe. The add-ons continued, to the point where astrophysics now suggests that an overwhelming percentage of the physical universe is invisible and indetectable. Which sounded strange, but I let it pass having other things to occupy my mind, and three kids to boot.

I ran across the plasma cosmology through sf author James Hogan, and I read a little more, and it does explain some things that conventional theories do not, and often, it does so much more simply. In the case of the rotation of spiral arms, it suggests that electrical currents are affecting the rotation speed - without recourse to invisible matter. Electromagnetism is 40 or so orders of magnitude stronger than gravity, so, hey, that might make a difference, seeing as 99% of the visible universe is plasma. In the case of the sun, if these electrical currents are out there in the galaxy, then it suggests that we are in the middle of them too, and like the above post suggests, the solar wind does pretty much meet the definition of an electrical current.

The anonymous coward's tone is a little abrasive, but modding him down for espousing a non-mainstream viewpoint is not cool, imho. There's some interesting thinking going on. And won't we all be embarrassed if, a hundred years from now, the hip people look on our astrophysics with dark matter and dark energy as a more recent version of epicycles?

Re:Nice outdated explanation (2, Informative)

Mac_OSX-1 (632402) | about 5 years ago | (#29084065)

Electrically-powered Sun claims have far more severe problems than the standard solar model. The standard model difficulty in a thin layer above the photosphere. Electric Sun problems extend from the photosphere to the heliopause (~100 AU) and impacts everything from conservation of particle number and energy to radiation exposure of astronauts. Much of it can be demonstrated at the level of high-school AP physics.
Electric Cosmos: The Solar Resistor Model []
Electric Cosmos: The Solar Capacitor Model. I. [] II. [] III. []
Electric Cosmos: Predictions []

The Sun affects the Earth? Who knew! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29075675)

From listening to Al Gore, I thought that the only thing impacting the Earth was SUVs driven by non-politicians.

Re:The Sun affects the Earth? Who knew! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29075699)

Goes to show that you should pay attention to what you're listening to.

Thats pretty neat. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29075687)


Why can't we respect the Sun's privacy? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29075693)

Sigh. Seems like "Privacy" is the new go-to excuse for people who want to make unreasonable / unusual demands about photographs of the Sun's coronasphere. We care about our astronomical body's privacy so much that we want to own pictures of them! Even if we didn't take them, we want to own the pictures of them - for their own protection! It's for your own good, move along now. I'm seeing a vague and ironic similarity with the shopping malls who CCTV your every move but claim personal photography is forbidden to protect their customers' privacy. Sure, we want to own pictures of everyone - but you can trust us! Somewhat unlike the shopping malls, I can believe that this is probably truth - they may very well be trying to protect their attendees and have no ill intent.

They may very well have good intentions. They want to restrict your freedom of expression but only in good ways! As creative people, though, if they want to prevent abuse of imagery from their event maybe they ought to have thought twice before giving themselves easily-abusable powers. Maybe they believe themselves pure enough and hard enough to corrupt from an organisational standpoint that this isn't a risk. They may also have a point in believing that a strength of the event is being somewhat "disconnected" from the usual freedom to take and display photographs. Maybe this is sufficient to justify these restrictions.

At the end of the day though, their attendees are creative people and should, hopefully, be able to judge the Sun by its actions - what their policy is *and* how they choose to enforce it. I don't think they're being entirely reasonable but then I won't be going anyhow ;-)

Answers one of my burning questions... (5, Interesting)

trav242 (645556) | about 5 years ago | (#29075773)

This is one of the first things I asked my fiancee when she was studying solar physics (specifically magnetohydrodynamics or MHD). The answer I always got was "we don't know yet." It's nice to see some new research in this area, coupled with an explanation that a non-physicist can at least grasp.

Re:Answers one of my burning questions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29075811)

Jesus Christ. Everyone knows that Corona is hot because it's Mexican. And they spend billions of money on making a report saying it's because of some nanobullshit and make people study that?! OMG! OMG!

Re:Answers one of my burning questions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29075819)

dont you mean your Boyfriend?

Re:Answers one of my burning questions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29076033)

I, for one, welcome our new nanoflare overlords.

Re:Answers one of my burning questions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29076061)

Good - maybe now she can predict HF propagation for us more completely and accurately than her predecessors!

Re:Answers one of my burning questions... (1)

Jim Klimchuk (1620279) | about 5 years ago | (#29105029)

Who's your fiancee? Is she still in the field?

Re:Answers one of my burning questions... (1)

trav242 (645556) | about 5 years ago | (#29105233)

Sara Petty. Unfortunately, she moved from Solar to Extra-Galactic about two years ago. Some of her early graduate research at GSFC was in MHD. Now she does something with galaxy morphology. I'm not a physicist, though... so I just smile and nod ;)

They need to change their logo! (3, Insightful)

distantbody (852269) | about 5 years ago | (#29075807)

Are they advocating a hands-on approach to rocketry?

Re:They need to change their logo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29075973)

you have a hands-on approach to homosexuality.

Re:They need to change their logo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29076351)

For the last time I'm not putting my hand there!

Is it a theory? (0, Troll)

cbraescu1 (180267) | about 5 years ago | (#29076059)

Is it a theory that explains all this or there are proven facts, too?

alternative (3, Funny)

binaryseraph (955557) | about 5 years ago | (#29076083)

Clearly the sun is producing way too much heat and energy- wasting its resources by not internalizing its combustion. I think we need to ban the sun, have a few rallies and focus on greener alternatives untill it can make changes.

Re:alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29076095)

God hates the sun!

Re:alternative (1)

binaryseraph (955557) | about 5 years ago | (#29076297)

flamebait?! ok, no saturday morning humor allowed.

Re:alternative (2, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 years ago | (#29076505)

Your comment was marked flamebait because with the article's wording "The discovery that nanoflares play an important and perhaps dominant role in coronal heating paves the way to understanding how the sun affects Earth and its atmosphere" along with your mocking the global warming zealots attempts of banning all things that don't fit their world hit too close to home.

The science is settled BTW, we already know all there is to know about how the sun warms the Earth and what causes global warming. Any information contrary to what is currently known and pushing the agenda is psudosciense and any semi-intelligent comment will be modded down by the Global Warming trolls. This is slashdot, what do you expect when science rules only when it agrees with their point of view.

Re:alternative (1)

binaryseraph (955557) | about 5 years ago | (#29077423)

Yeah... Instead of the 2 paragraph response talking about my understanding of global warming, and myself being a "global warming zealot" I think I'll sum up my response with: Get over your self.

Re:alternative (1, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 years ago | (#29077939)

I think you don't know what I know. The comment was a bashing on the mods who modded you down, not an attack on you.

The zealots say the science is settled, that it's a fact and undeniable, the article says this discovery paves the way to understanding how the sun affects Earth and its atmosphere, You comment joked about their attempts to ban everything that's detrimental to the earth as they know it (or at least that's how it is perceived), that is why you were modded Flamebait.

The point I was making is that given all the relevant data, you comment intruded on their religion and it seems to be one of the only ones accepted here so you were modded down for making an obvious joke.

Re:alternative (2, Interesting)

binaryseraph (955557) | about 5 years ago | (#29078209)

ah, gotcha. Right- so sorry i missread that. Funny thing about slashdot- if you dare speak ill (or crack a joke about): Linux,google,environment or apple you are sure to get trouced. There is an almost one-sided view that all users must take or face some sort of arbitrary modding. Though i guess its evident that I dont read the posts right either, so maybe i have it coming. Sorry again for that!

Re:alternative (2, Informative)

sumdumass (711423) | about 5 years ago | (#29078415)

ah, gotcha. Right- so sorry i missread that.

I wrote it sort of sloppily in an attempt to mock the mods. I doesn't seem as clear as I thought it did at first so the confusion is probably my fault.

I find it funny when something like that is modded down and need to jump in to support the people. I have relatively good karma and it takes a couple more mod points to drop my posts into obscurity. I also like replying to the down modded points so as people will hit the parent button to see what the hell I'm talking about. That pretty much defeats the modded into oblivion problem and in a lot of cases ends up getting the parent post modded back up. I do have a few mod point trolls who will just mod every post down. Their favorite is overrated and they wasted about 9 points attempting to mod down a post about and all it's trailing comments I made about religion and science last week. I would classify myself as a troll, rather for standing up against the trolls.

For our American viewers.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29076143)

..that's (9/5 * (several-million - 273) + 32) Fahrenheit (F)

You're welcome! ;)

Re:For our American viewers.. (1)

SBrach (1073190) | about 5 years ago | (#29076247)

And that's (Several Million - 273.15) for our oh-so-enlightened European viewers who still insist on using Celsius rather than the proper SI unit Kelvin.

Re:For our American viewers.. (2, Interesting)

iggymanz (596061) | about 5 years ago | (#29076513)

real Americans use Rankine (F + 460) for absolute temperature - We don't use them Gawdless frogger-varmint socialist measures!

Re:For our American viewers.. (-1, Troll)

smoker2 (750216) | about 5 years ago | (#29078779)

fuck off prick.

Burning Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29076517)

I think we have found the next location for Burning Man! *Any pictures taken at the event would be destroyed...

solved? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29076549)

I think "solved" is a strong word to use for saying essentially, "its hot because of hot spots."

In case anyone would like to read the paper... (5, Informative)

arcctgx (607542) | about 5 years ago | (#29077085)

It's on arXiv: []

TMBG reference in 3...2...1... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29077099)

Wow, the sun really IS a mass of incandescent gas!

but according to other sources ... (1)

porky_pig_jr (129948) | about 5 years ago | (#29077449)

the real culprit is a quantum flux.

Nanoflares, huh? (1)

Jarnin (925269) | about 5 years ago | (#29078003)

OK, these new flares are small. I get it. But are these new flares 1 billion times smaller than a 'normal' solar flare? That's what the prefix indicates.

Crap (0, Flamebait)

smoker2 (750216) | about 5 years ago | (#29078719)

This will probably sound like crap, but, if anybody out there has had to deal with heat in any real form, they would have found that the greatest heat was never at the surface. Light a flame - the heat isn't at the yellow outer edge, it isn't in the centre, it's precisely where the blue cone terminates. Why should the sun be any different. Yes I know it's a nuclear phenomenon, but FFS, the evidence stands for itself. Oh, sorry, this is Discovery science on /. these days. maybe I should swear and say wow a few times !

Re:Crap (1)

Attila the Bun (952109) | about 5 years ago | (#29078821)

Light a flame - the heat isn't at the yellow outer edge, it isn't in the centre, it's precisely where the blue cone terminates. Why should the sun be any different. Yes I know it's a nuclear phenomenon, but FFS, the evidence stands for itself. Oh, sorry, this is Discovery science on /. these days. maybe I should swear and say wow a few times !

Well you've got the invalid-analogy and the proof-by-assertion already, so why not? I look forward to seeing you on TV.

Re:Crap (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | about 5 years ago | (#29081717)

The hot blue part of a flame is at the bottom, whereas the corona is on the topside of the sun. That is not the same.

Mystery NOT solved (2, Insightful)

Eukariote (881204) | about 5 years ago | (#29078983)

The "explanation" shifts the blame to "nanoflares". Why? Well, because "These temperatures can only be produced by impulsive energy bursts". But just because that is the only mechanism James Klimchuk can think of does not mean that there is no other mechanism. Indeed, anomalous extreme temperatures have been observed in coronal-alike plasmas under laboratory conditions: [] . No "nanoflares" in that 0.4 Torr Pyrex cylinder.

This is typical overconfidence in theory. The reasoning is: nature must obey our currently accepted theories, and within the context of those theories I see only one possible cause, so that must be it. Such hubris. The accepted theories are likely to be incomplete, and might be downright wrong in places.

Then there is the title of the post: "Mystery of Sun's Outer Atmosphere Solved" Finely tuned to plant the mistaken belief in the mind of the Slashdot crowd that it has been figured out. Nothing more to see here. Please move along. After all, we don't want people to get a clue as to what is actually producing all that energy needed to keep the corona piping hot, do we?

Re:Mystery NOT solved (1)

Seedy2 (126078) | about 5 years ago | (#29084505)

The biggest problem with science reporting is that the reporter, even if they understand what the scientist says, has to "dumb it down" for the masses. Depending on the publication, there is a different level of "dumb it down", presumably to match the expected readership. That all goes out the window when the reporter DOESN'T understand the science, and is just reporting "news". Most scientists who haven't made a point of talking to laymen in their field suck at dumbing down their own work, so either they say something that people misunderstand or they say something that get changed by an ignorant editor, or both.
Relying on summaries, other than the abstract for the paper, will leave you with a possible misunderstanding as to what the science is actually all about.

Knowlege is valuable (1)

heironymous (197988) | about 5 years ago | (#29079837)

"The discovery that nanoflares play an important and perhaps dominant role in coronal heating paves the way to understanding how the sun affects Earth and its atmosphere."

People, couldn't we just be happy that we better understand something about the universe without trying to contrive some kind of relevance? Knowledge is valuable for its own sake. Science doesn't need an immediate application to be important.

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