The Sun’s Raining Plasma: No Umbrella Protection Possible

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 06 April 2019



Flying Over the Surface of Our Sun
Watching Plasma Raining Off Small Magnetic Loops
Solar Plasma Raining Off Small Magnetic Loops, by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Emily Mason.
A previously overlooked magnetic structure is shown here in two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. The coronal rain observed in these comparatively small magnetic loops suggests that the corona may be heated within a far more restricted region than previously expected. Credits: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Emily Mason.  Big


The Sun’s Raining Plasma: No Umbrella Protection Possible

Unexpected Rain on Sun Links Two Solar Mysteries,
NASA, April 5, 2019.


Solar Plasma Rain
Off The Sun’s Magnetic Loops
“At the loop’s foot points, where it attaches to the Sun’s surface, the plasma is superheated from a few thousand to over 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit. It then expands up the loop and gathers at its peak, far from the heat source. As the plasma cools, it condenses and gravity lures it down the loop’s legs as coronal rain.”

Expected Location

Solar Eruption, Plasma Rain off Big Magnetic Loop
 NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, Lead Animator.
Coronal rain, like that shown in this movie from NASA’s SDO in 2012, is sometimes observed after solar eruptions, when the intense heating associated with a solar flare abruptly cuts off after the eruption and the remaining plasma cools and falls back to the solar surface. Credits: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, Lead Animator.

Expected in Big Loops
“...expected to find it in helmet streamers, the million-mile tall magnetic loops — named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet — that can be seen protruding from the Sun during a solar eclipse.”

Finding Solar Plasma Rain
Closer to Solar Surface
“...describe the first observations of coronal rain in a smaller, previously overlooked kind of magnetic loop on the Sun.”

Not Understood
“...the findings forge a new link between the anomalous heating of the corona and the source of the slow solar wind — two of the biggest mysteries facing solar science today.”

“...the mystery of how and why the Sun’s outer atmosphere is some 300 times hotter than its surface.”

Plasma Raining from Small Magnetic Loops Expands Understanding

“These loops were much smaller than what we were looking for.”

“...raining loops...were some 30,000 miles high, a mere two percent the height of some of the (million mile tall) helmet streamers...”

“Strikingly, simulations have shown that coronal rain only forms when heat is applied to the very bottom of the loop.”

Coronal Heating Happening in Lower Atmosphere
“We still don’t know exactly what’s heating the corona, but (now) we know it has to happen in this layer.”

More Coronal Heating Inof
Heating From the Bottom
“Raining loops provide a measuring rod, a cutoff point to determine where the corona gets heated.”

And Feeding Slow Solar Wind
These observation indicate that a new mechanism for plasma rain from open magnetic field lines may also be feeding plasma into the slow solar wind.



More Solar Research

Sun’s Corona Hotter Than Surface
Great Balls ‘O Fire! Why’s Our Star’s Atmosphere So Hot?


What Is the Sun Made Of and When Will It Die?



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