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Hotter than the sun

Researchers directly observe Alfvén waves, which keep the corona sizzling

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1:07pm, March 19, 2009

Magnetic waves theorized to transfer heat from the surface of the sun to its atmosphere have been directly observed for the first time, researchers report in the March 20 Science.

Astrophysicists have long puzzled over why the sun’s corona, the outer part of the solar atmosphere, is millions of degrees hotter than the surface of the sun itself. “It’s counterintuitive — when you hold your hands in front of a fire, it’s hottest closest to the flames,” says David Jess, an astrophysicist at Queen’s University Belfast, in Northern Ireland, and a study coauthor.

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