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New Insights into the Solar Coronal Heating Problem

Event Details

Event Dates: 

Monday, February 3, 2014 - 4:00pm

Seminar Location: 

  • JILA Auditorium

Speaker Name(s): 

Nicholeen Viall

Speaker Affiliation(s): 

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Seminar Type/Subject

Scientific Seminar Type: 

  • Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences Seminar

Event Details & Abstract: 

How the solar corona is heated to temperatures of over 1 MK, while the photosphere below is only ~ 6000 K, remains one of the outstanding problems in all of space science. Solving this problem is crucial for predicting Sun-Earth connections, provides insight into stellar atmospheres, and will provide new understanding into universal processes such as magnetic reconnection and wave-particle interactions. The leading theories of coronal heating result in different timescales of coronal emissions, and are classified as either ‘steady’ or ‘impulsive’. We use a new technique that combines time-series analysis of multi-wavelength images taken with the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly onboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory with numerical models of coronal heating to test these theories directly. We find that the majority of the coronal plasma is undergoing dynamic heating and cooling cycles, consistent with the so-called 'impulsive nanoflare' scenario. This main result is born out in active regions and quiet Sun locations that exhibit a range of properties. These observational results combined with our modeling efforts provide important new constraints on the coronal heating process.