The Hinode recordings already show a possible answer. On the films you can see the chromosphere, a thin layer of the sun's atmosphere that glows reddish at a solar eclipse. The films show how magnetic loops of the size of the earth deform and twist and eventually explode as a mighty sun torch. "So far, we thought there was not much going on in the chromosphere, but that was a miscalculation, " says John Davis of Nasa's Marshall Space Flight Center.
An enormous amount of energy is stored in the distorted magnetic field lines. When they transform into simpler forms, energy is released that heats the corona. Theorists had already suspected that intertwined magnetic fields exist. "Now they can be seen for the first time, " says astrophysicist Leon Golub of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. So far, it has not been possible to predict the occurrence of sun flares. The observatory, Hinode hope, is a first step towards space weather forecasting. Leon Golub: "We have seen many unexpected things, the mission is already a success."Ute Kehse advertisement