Scientists to chase solar eclipse using NASA jets

In a first, scientists are planning to chase the shadow of the Moon using NASA’s research jets during the upcoming total solar eclipse in the US, in order to capture the clearest ever images of the Sun’s outer atmosphere.
The jets will capture the clearest images of the Sun’s corona to date and the first-ever thermal images of Mercury, revealing how temperature varies across the planet’s surface.
The total solar eclipse provides a rare opportunity for scientists to study the Sun, particularly its atmosphere. As the Moon completely covers the Sun and perfectly blocks its light during an eclipse, the typically faint corona is easily seen against the dark sky.
The corona is heated to millions of degrees, yet the lower atmospheric layers like the photosphere – the visible surface of the Sun – are only heated to a few thousand degrees. Scientists are not sure how this inversion happens.
One theory proposes micro explosions, termed nanoflares – too small and frequent to detect individually, but with a large collective effect – might release heat into the corona.
No one has yet directly seen nanoflares. It is hoped that the new experiment might reveal their effects on the corona.
The corona is the outermost layer of the Sun, starting at about 1300 miles (2100 km) above the solar surface (the photosphere). The temperature in the corona is 500,000 K (900,000 degrees F, 500,000 degrees C) or more, up to a few million K. The corona cannot be seen with the naked eye except during a total solar eclipse, or with the use of a coronagraph. The corona does not have an upper limit.

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