This Monday the Sun and the Moon will give us a beautiful show: a total solar eclipse which will be visible in several countries of Latin America.
And who will be the star of the show ?: the solar corona, the region outermost of the Sun’s atmosphere.
On a normal day, light from the Sun’s surface makes it difficult to see the corona, but during an eclipse, you can see the brightness of the crown without the need for special instruments.
And this December 14 Not only will we be able to see the crown, but perhaps we will see it in one of its more striking versions.
What makes the corona so important and why do scientists have the expectation that it is different which we saw in previous years?
Blinding the Sun
During a total solar eclipse, the Moon gets in the way between the Earth and the Sun.
At that time, the Moon blocks the glare of the Sun and only the bright corona that surrounds it is visible.
That’s one of the moments summits of the Show.
When the eclipse reaches its totality, for a few minutes the day darkens and only a white ring in the sky.
Scientists take advantage of these moments to study the structure of the Sun’s atmosphere and analyze its evolution.
There are instruments with which researchers can cover the solar disk to study the corona when there is no eclipse, “but they are never that efficient like the Moon during an eclipse ”, as astrophysicist Teresa Nieves-Chinchilla, scientist in the Department of Heliophysics at NASA’s Goddard Center, tells BBC Mundo.
A dynamic and mysterious region
The solar corona is a region of violent explosions They release plasma, a super hot, electromagnetically charged gas that makes up the Sun’s outer atmosphere.
It is also a mysterious area.
One of those riddles is why the crown is a lot hotter than the surface of the Sun.
While the solar surface exceeds 5,500 Cº, the corona can reach a temperature 400 times higher.
It is as if being in a campfire, you feel more heat as you move away from it.
According to NASA, one of the possible explanations for this phenomenon is that in the corona they explode “Heat pumps” that travel from the innermost parts of the Sun, releasing energy in the form of heat.
The Sun’s magnetic fields also make the corona a place very agitated.
These magnetic fields affect the corona particles and create spectacular events like streamers, turbulence, loops and tufts.
In addition, the crown is the place where the solar winds, which travels through space.
This wind is made up of a constant flow of particles, radiation and magnetic fields shooting out from the Sun.
If it is very strong, the solar wind can filter down to Earth and create a aurora near the poles.
Finally, the crown also originates coronary mass ejections, which are large plasma and magnetic field ejections.
These ejections can have an effect on the electrical networks and telecommunications on Earth.
An example was the so-called Carrington event in 1859, when a fierce solar storm burned telegraph cables in various parts of the world.
A sun in full swing
Scientists take advantage of eclipses to study the phenomena of the solar corona, and this Monday awakens particular expectation.
“We come from a stage in which the Sun was calm, with little activity,” says Nieves-Chinchilla, but “just in the last few weeks the Sun has begun to wake”.
The expert refers to the fact that we are before the beginning of a new solar cycle, a phenomenon in which the sun’s magnetic field increases and decreases in periods of 11 years.
The Sun ended the previous cycle, on the 24th, with little activity. But this new cycle, the 25th, shows it much more dynamic.
This year, increased solar storms could show a more turbulent corona and with prominencias.
“We hope to see the Sun in full performanceNieves-Chinchilla says.
“We may see coronal mass emissions. If this happens during the eclipse it would be exciting“.
Nieves-Chinchilla explains that if prominences or active events occurred on the Sun during the eclipse, people could distinguish them as long as the atmosphere is close. clear enough.
“In any case we will see a crown very different from what was seen in 2019,” he says.
This time “it will be a much more dynamic and active crown. In the 2019 eclipse a very static and stable“.
Finally, the scientist emphasizes a key aspect to enjoy the eclipse.
“It is very important to observe the eclipse with protective glasses ”, warns.
“It also looks better that way, because the solar filters allow you to see the corona with greater sharpness ”.
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