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Astronomers watch the Sun through a microwave lens

24 Aug 2018, 09:15 UTC
Astronomers watch the Sun through a microwave lens
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Bright spots and illuminated arcs of solar material hovering in the sun’s atmosphere highlight what’s known as active regions on the Sun, and these areas give rise to solar flares. Image credit: NASA/SDO
The Sun is a rather well-studied star, so it’s always exciting when we get the opportunity to observe it in a new way. One such opportunity is upcoming, via NASA’s Parker Solar Probe that was launched on 12 August 2018. But while scientists wait for that new view of the Sun, they have another one to examine: the Sun in microwaves.
In new efforts to better understand solar flares — sudden eruptions that occur when magnetic energy is abruptly released from the Sun, sending a burst of particles and radiation into space — we’ve observed these phenomena across a wide range of wavelengths. One wavelength regime known to be valuable for understanding the physics of solar flares is that of microwaves, which are emitted by high-energy electrons that are accelerated as energy is released in the flare.
But before now, the vast majority of microwave studies of solar flares have relied on data from the Nobeyama Radioheliograph in Japan, which observes the Sun at just two fixed ...

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