A new instrument developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has captured landmark imagery of fast-evolving magnetic structures in the solar atmosphere. Steven Tomczyk (NCAR High Altitude Observatory) presented the images on Monday, May 31, at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Denver.
These images show the brightness, magnetic field strength, and Doppler velocity of an erupting solar prominence taken with the Coronal Multi-Channel Polarimeter on March 9, 2004. The images were taken in a wavelength region in the near-Infrared spectrum corresponding to emission from Helium atoms. Positive and negative polarities of magnetic fields are indicated by the yellow and white colors of the middle image, while velocities directed towards and away from the observer are indicated by the blue and red colors of the rightmost figure.
Animations from the coronal multichannel polarimeter, or CoMP, reveal turbulent, high-velocity magnetic features spewing outward from the Suns surface. A sample animation can be viewed at the Web site below. The National Science Foundation, NCAR’s primary sponsor, is providing funding for the instrument.
CoMP is expected to provide the best data to date on magnetic structures in the solar corona, the extremely hot halo around the Sun that becomes visible during eclipses. "People have measured coronal magnetism before," says Tomczyk, "but we believe this is the first time its being done in a time sequence like this, where you can see an evolving structure. I think were making important steps and demonstrating that this technology works."
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