During a total solar eclipse, one of the most enchanting attractions is the ghostly solar corona. Thin streamers of gas in the outer atmosphere of the Sun suddenly become visible when the disk of the Moon blocks the bright body of the Sun.
Researchers from Predictive Science Inc., supported by NASA, have just released the final computer model showing how the crown should look when viewed with the human eye on August 21 (this is just a rough model, in reality the crown is replete with subtle details).
“The external atmosphere of the Sun is not just a faceless gas,” explains Pete Riley, a solar physicist at Predictive Science Inc. “It” is fashioned “into beautiful, dynamic forms by a solar magnetic field.”
Riley and his colleagues, including Zoran Mikitsa and Cooper Downs, figured out how to calculate and predict its appearance. “Every day, the Sun Dynamics Observatory measures magnetism on the surface of our luminary,” explains Mikits, who supervised the modeling work.
“We take the data and extrapolate them to the atmosphere using a computer and a hydrodynamic code.” The result is a physics-based forecast of what people and cameras will see in the full solar eclipse.
“We want to know how well our model will fit the reality,” Riley says. “Ultimately, this can give a new look at the complex physical processes of heating the solar corona and accelerating the solar wind.”