This magnetic loop looks like a fiery swan. For the first time, fine details can be seen on the image of the observatory Hinode. Image: JAXA / NASA / SAO
The dynamics of the first images that the new Japanese solar observatory Hinode ("Sunrise") has sent to Earth from space is breathtaking: for the first time, sun researchers can observe the formation of sun torches in X-rays, they see the sun's chromosphere, which looks like a fluffy flokati rug works, and huge magnetic loops that rise above the sunspots. Even experienced sun physicists are enthusiastic about the pictures. Some already refer to Hinode as "Hubble for the Sun". They hope the observatory will help them answer some of the most pressing questions about the sun? for example, why the corona, the outer atmosphere of the orb, is more than one million degrees hot.

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."

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