Cue the surfing music. Scientists have spotted the iconic surfers wave rolling through the atmosphere of the sun. This makes for more than just a nice photo-op: the waves hold clues as to how energy moves through that atmosphere, known as the corona.
Since scientists know how these kinds of waves — initiated by a Kelvin-Helmholtz instability if youre being technical — disperse energy in the water, they can use this information to better understand the corona. This in turn, may help solve an enduring mystery of why the corona is thousands of times hotter than originally expected.”One of the biggest questions about the solar corona is the heating mechanism,” says solar physicist Leon Ofman of NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. and Catholic University, Washington. “The corona is a thousand times hotter than the suns visible surface, but what heats it up is not well-understood. People have suggested that waves like this might cause turbulence which cause heating, but now we have direct evidence of Kelvin-Helmholtz waves.”