Using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) GOES-17 satellite, researchers from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) were able to capture the first-ever images of the sun’s middle corona. “Our instruments focus on the sun, but not at the heights needed to see these events,” says Dan Seaton, a scientist with NCEI and CIRES who led the study. “We were able to create a larger field of view and construct mosaic images of the sun showing the solar corona in extreme ultraviolet light, to answer questions about how the sun’s outer atmosphere connects to the surface of the star.”
What exactly is the sun’s middle corona? The middle corona is the area of the sun that drives the solar wind and big solar eruptions that travel to Earth, which can affect various technologies here, including blocking radio communications, damaging power grids, and diminishing navigation system accuracy. The new observations revealed surprising connections between the inner corona, with its complex magnetic structure, and the outer corona, where the solar wind flows into the heliosphere, the vast bubble of space surrounding the sun. “We didn’t think there was such a deep connection between these regions, but now we know they’re interacting all the time,” Seaton said.
With the team’s innovation observations, forecasters may be able to better detect and track solar eruptions, such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), that pose space weather hazards to Earth.
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