A new study has been published listing data captured by researchers that may be the first comprehensive observation of the solar nanoflora. The study marks the first time that scientists have captured the full life cycle of an alleged nanoflame, ranging from the first bright origin to its death. Nanoflare is a tiny eruption on the surface of the Sun, which is approximately a billion the size of a normal solar flare.
Researchers are trying to uncover more details about nanoflares because they are thought to be responsible for heating the solar corona to an incredibly high temperature. Although this is the first time that a complete life cycle of nanoflares has been realized, researchers predicted that they existed as early as 1972 trying to solve the coronal warming mystery.
Scientists wanted to know how the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona, can reach such incredibly high temperatures, even though it is further away from the sun’s core. The corona is millions of degrees warmer than the layers beneath it. Part of the challenge in explaining the high temperatures of the corona was that no one had ever noticed the nanoflame.
Nanoflares are very small and very short, and telescopes have only recently become powerful enough to be able to observe them. Nanoflares have something in common with regular solar flare because nanoflares are created by magnetic reconnection. The magnetic reconnection is triggered by an explosive rearrangement of the magnetic field lines capable of heating the currently “cold” plasma to too hot temperatures.
To observe the magnetic reconnection, the scientists looked for intense heat in a far colder environment. To confirm that the observation was a nanophoto, the object also had to heat the corona. The researchers used images taken by NASA’s Interference Region Imaging Spectrograph for the study.
While observing very small and bright loops about 60 miles wide, they found that the loops were millions of degrees hotter than their surroundings. After intensive study, it was found that the only heating mechanism that can produce the recorded effect must come from magnetic reconnection. Researchers are still working to confirm that the objects under study occur often enough throughout the sun to explain the extreme heat of the corona.