The Solar Corona’s Magnetic Field Was Unveiled For the First Time


A team of researchers from the University of Hawai’i Institute for Astronomy (IfA) has been studying the solar corona for quite a while now. They released high-resolution images for the first time that show some of the finest details of the corona. Here is what you need to know. 

The Total Solar Eclipse Research Offered Intriguing Results

The solar corona features are a result of the Sun’s complex magnetic field, which is made in the solar interior and spreads outward. The recent research by IfA graduate student Benjamin Boe, utilized total solar eclipse observations to evaluate the form of the coronal magnetic field with higher spatial resolution and over a more significant area than previously. 

The corona can be usually spotted during a total solar eclipse; the Moon is between the Earth and the Sun, blocking the Sun’s shining surface. Recent technological advances have changed much of the focus to space-based examinations at wavelengths of light not available from the ground. However, even with such progress, some corona features can only be analyzed during total solar eclipses. 

So, that’s why Boe’s coronal research expert and advisor, Shadia Habbal, has conducted a team of eclipse chasers realizing scientific observations during solar eclipses for over two decades. The “solar wind sherpas” explore the globe hunting total solar eclipses, carrying sensitive scientific devices on cars, helicopters, planes, and sometimes, even on horses, to arrive at the optimal locations. The solar eclipse observations brought so many intriguing results that some of the solar corona’s secrets have been finally unveiled. 

Boe discovered the model of the distribution of magnetic field lines in the corona. He utilized an automatic tracing procedure applied to pictures of the corona shot during 14 eclipses across the past 20 years. The data offered the opportunity to examine the variations in the corona over two 11-year magnetic cycles of the Sun. 

Moreover, Boe found that the model of the coronal magnetic field lines is very well defined, with structures viewed at size scales down to the resolution limit of the cameras utilized. Such a discovery will further support astronomers’ researches.

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