Energy release in the solar corona from spatially resolved magnetic braids

Cirtain, J. W., Golub, L., Winebarger, A. R., De Pontieu, B., Kobayashi, K., Moore, R. L., Walsh, Robert William orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1025-9863, Korreck, K. E., Weber, M. et al (2013) Energy release in the solar corona from spatially resolved magnetic braids. Nature, 493 (7433). pp. 501-503. ISSN 0028-0836

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It is now apparent that there are at least two heating mechanisms in the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona1–5. Wave heating may be the prevalent mechanism in quiet solar periods and may contribute to heating the corona to 1,500,000K (refs 1–3). The active corona needs additional heating to reach 2,000,000–4,000,000 K; this heat has been theoretically proposed6–12 to come from the reconnection
and unravelling of magnetic ‘braids’. Evidence favouring that process has been inferred13,14, but has not been generally accepted because observations are sparse and, in general, the braided magnetic strands that are thought1–3,15–17 to have an angular width of about 0.2 arc seconds have not been resolved10,18–20. Fine-scale
braiding has been seen21,22 in the chromosphere but not, until now, in the corona. Here we report observations, at a resolution of 0.2 arc seconds, ofmagnetic braids in a coronal active region that are reconnecting, relaxing and dissipating sufficient energy to heat the structures
to about 4,000,000K. Although our 5-minute observations
cannot unambiguously identify the field reconnection and subsequent relaxation as the dominant heating mechanism throughout active regions, the energy available fromthe observed.

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