Scientists have just discovered a brand-new type of explosion in the solar corona, the atmosphere of the Sun.
The ‘forced magnetic reconnection’ could help explain why the corona is hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the Sun.
The sun is entering a new Solar Cycle. We are entering the Grand Solar Minimum. Up to now researchers had no evidence suggesting an external driver for magnetic reconnection. But now, analysing new available data from May 2012, scientists have observed that it could be forced by solar eruptions.
What Is A Magnetic Reconnection?
Observations in May 2012 showed erupted material from the surface of the Sun, a so-called prominence, slamming into magnetic lines.
The interactions caused a dramatic realignment of the tangled magnetic field lines, releasing energy very quickly and causing an explosion.
The realignment of field lines is a studied featured of the Sun and it is known as magnetic reconnection.
Spontaneous vs Forced Magnetic Reconnection
The spontaneous magnetic reconnection requires very specific conditions.
On the other side, the forced one appears to be less strict so they can happen more often, given that there is something to supply the material.
Solar eruptions, flares and coronal mass ejections could be equally effective in forcing magnetic reconnection.
In other words, scientists believe that forced reconnection is everywhere. But they still have to prove it.
Mystery of the Corona Temperature
Forced magnetic reconnections heat up material to high temperatures more efficiently than the spontaneous counterpart.
This is why, solar scientists suspect it might have something to do with the mystery of the corona temperature.
The surface of the Sun has a temperature of around 5,499°C (9,930°F) but the corona is over 1 million °C (1.8 million °F).