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The sun’s setting via Mongta Studio/ Shutterstock.

You are watching: How hot is the surface of the sun in degrees fahrenheit

By Marianna Korsos, Aberystwyth University and Huw Morgan, Aberystwyth University

Burning questions around the sun’s atmosphere

The visible surface of the sun, or the photosphere, is around 6,000 degrees Celsius (11,000 levels Fahrenheit). However a few thousand kilometers over it – a little distance once we take into consideration the size of the sunlight – the solar atmosphere, likewise called the corona, is hundreds of times hotter. The corona will a million degrees C or higher (over 1.8 million degrees F).

This spike in temperature, regardless of the increased distance indigenous the sun’s main energy source, has been observed in many stars. It to represent a fundamental puzzle that astrophysicists have actually mulled over for decades.

In 1942, the swedish scientist Hannes Alfvén propose an explanation. He theorized that magnetized waves of plasma might carry huge amounts of energy along the sun’s magnetic ar from its interior to the corona. The power bypasses the photosphere prior to exploding with warm in the sun’s upper atmosphere.

Modern proof because that an old theory

Scientists had actually tentatively accepted the theory, but we still needed proof. We essential empirical observation that these waves existed. Our recent study has finally achieved this. It has actually validated Alfvén’s 80-year-old theory and taken us a action closer come harnessing this high-energy phenomenon here on Earth.

The coronal heating problem has to be established because the so late 1930s. That’s when the sweden spectroscopist Bengt Edlén and the German astrophysicist Walter Grotrian very first observed phenomena in the sun’s corona that can only be current if the temperature was a couple of million levels Celsius.

This to represent temperatures up to 1,000 time hotter 보다 the photosphere beneath it, i m sorry is the surface of the sun that we deserve to see from Earth. Estimating the photosphere’s heat has constantly been reasonably straightforward. We simply need to measure up the light the reaches united state from the sun, and also compare it to spectrum models that predict the temperature the the light’s source.

Over countless decades of study, scientists have consistently approximated the photosphere’s temperature at about 6,000 degrees C (11,000 degrees F). Edlén and also Grotrian’s finding the the sun’s corona is so lot hotter 보다 the photosphere – despite being further from the sun’s core, its ultimate source of energy – has led to much head-scratching in the scientific community.

Convection and sun’s atmosphere

Scientists looked come the sun’s properties to describe this disparity. The sun is composed virtually entirely the plasma, i m sorry is very ionized gas the carries an electrical charge. The motion of this plasma in the convection region – the upper component of the solar inner – produces large electrical currents and solid magnetic fields.

Convection drags these areas up from the sun’s interior. Castle burble top top its visible surface in the kind of dark sunspots, which space clusters the magnetic areas that can form a selection of magnetic frameworks in the solar atmosphere.

This is whereby Alfvén’s concept comes in. The reasoned the within the sun’s magnetized plasma any kind of bulk motions of electrically charged particles would certainly disturb the magnetic field. The would develop waves that can carry substantial amounts of power along large distances – from the sun’s surface to its top atmosphere. The warmth travels along what are referred to as solar magnetic flux tubes before bursting right into the corona, producing its high temperature.

Beneath the sun’s atmosphere: 100 job of sunspots

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Sunspots are darker patches on the sun’s surface.. This diagram reflects multiple layers, including the sun’s atmosphere. Image via Siberian Art/ Shutterstock.

These magnetic plasma waves are now dubbed Alfvén waves, and their component in explaining coronal heating resulted in Alfvén gift awarded the Nobel prize in Physics in 1970.

Observing Alfvén waves

But there stayed the problem of actually observing this waves. Yes so much happening top top the Sun’s surface and also in its setting – from phenomena many times larger than earth to little changes listed below the resolution of ours instrumentation – that direct observational evidence of Alfvén tide in the photosphere has not been achieved before.

But recent developments in instrumentation have actually opened a new window with which we have the right to examine solar physics. One such instrument is the Interferometric Bidimensional Spectropolarimeter (IBIS) because that imaging spectroscopy, set up at the Dunn Solar Telescope in the U.S. State of new Mexico. This instrument has enabled us to do far more detailed observations and also measurements that the Sun.

Combined with good viewing conditions, advanced computer simulations, and the initiatives of an global team of researchers from seven research study institutions, we supplied the IBIS to lastly confirm, for the an initial time, the presence of Alfvén tide in solar magnetic flux tubes.

New energy source

The direct discovery that Alfvén waves in the solar photosphere is critical step in the direction of exploiting their high power potential here on Earth. Lock could help us study nuclear fusion, because that instance, which is the procedure taking place inside the sun that involves small amounts of issue being converted into large amounts of energy. Our existing nuclear power stations usage nuclear fission, which critics argue produce dangerous atom waste, especially in the case of catastrophes including the one the took location in Fukushima in 2011.

Creating clean power by replicating the nuclear fusion of the sun on planet remains a huge challenge. We’d still should generate 100 million levels Celsius quickly for combination to occur. Alfvén waves could be one method of act this. Our farming knowledge the the sun shows it’s certainly feasible under the ideal conditions.

We’re also expecting more solar revelations soon, many thanks to new, ground-breaking missions and instruments. The European an are Agency’s Solar Orbiter satellite is currently in orbit roughly the sun, delivering images and also taking dimensions of the star’s uncharted polar regions. Terrestrially, the unveiling of new, high-performance solar telescopes are additionally expected to improve our monitorings of the sunlight from Earth.

There are many secrets the the sunlight still to be discovered, consisting of the nature of the sun’s magnetic field. For this reason this is an interesting time because that solar studies. Ours detection the Alfvén waves is just one contribution to a more comprehensive field it is looking to unlock the sun’s staying mysteries for valuable applications top top Earth.

Marianna Korsos, Post-Doctoral research Assistant, department of Physics, Aberystwyth University and Huw Morgan, leader in physical Sciences, Aberystwyth University

This write-up is republished indigenous The Conversation under a an innovative Commons license. Read the initial article.

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Bottom line: The sun’s environment is hundreds of times hotter than its surface. This is why.