Science

NASA missions go deep into the solar chromosphere

The image below is of the solar chromosphere and was taken in 1999 during a total solar eclipse. The shades of red and pink around the edges are created by the light emitted from hydrogen. The bright colors are what give the chromosphere its name, and the word “chroma” means color in Greek. Scientists have known about the chromosphere for more than a century, and yet it remains one of the most mysterious layers of the atmosphere.

for the first time, Container A search of the sun’s chromosphere using three different missions to return multiple altitude measurements of the solar magnetic field. The measurements were taken by a pair of satellites and the NASA CLASP2 mission. CLASP2 was aboard a small suborbital rocket, and data from all three missions helped NASA show how the magnetic fields on the surface of the Sun create remarkable volcanic eruptions in its outer atmosphere.

It is important to know everything we can about the different layers of the atmosphere to predict the weather of space, which can start from the Sun but spread rapidly through space and have the potential to cause disturbances near Earth. The sun’s magnetic field drives solar flares, and the magnetic field is difficult to see. Observations of the sun’s magnetic field can only be made indirectly by studying light from a plasma or heated gas that traces the magnetic field lines.

Observing the chromosphere is difficult because the magnetic field lines rearrange them in ways that are difficult to predict. To make her observations, CLASP2 was launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and traveled 170 miles above the ground. At this altitude, it was able to see the sun from above Earth’s atmosphere, blocking out certain wavelengths of light.

NASA IRIS and the JAXA / NASA Hinode satellite made observations alongside CLASP2, as they were both viewing the sun from Earth’s orbit. All three missions focused on the same part of the sun, looking at different depths. Hinode focused on the photosphere while CLASP2 targeted three different elevations within the chromosphere, and IRIS measured Mg lines with higher accuracy to calibrate the CLASP2 data. The result was the first multi-elevation map of the chromosphere’s magnetic field.

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