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Section 5

We're working to understand why up to 10 million jets of solar material burst from the sun’s surface at any moment.

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Called spicules, they can erupt as fast as 60 miles per second and reach lengths of 6,000 miles before collapsing. Now, for the first time, a computer simulation — so detailed it took a full year to run — shows how spicules form, helping scientists understand how they break free of the sun’s surface and surge upward so quickly. Observing spicules has been a thorny problem for scientists, because spicules are transient, forming and collapsing over the course of just five to 10 minutes. These tenuous structures are also difficult to study from Earth, where the atmosphere often blurs our telescopes’ vision. This work relied upon high-cadence observations from our Interface Region Imaging Spectrogragh, or IRIS, and the Swedish 1-meter Solar Telescope in La Palma, in the Canary Islands. Together, the spacecraft and telescope peer into the lower layers of the sun’s atmosphere, known as the interface region, where spicules form. Image credit: NASA
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