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the wings of a firefly


The Sun has many little magnets scattered across its surface, which move about all the time because the solar surface is a bubbling plasma.


This computer picture of a small patch of the Sun gives some idea of how complicated the Sun's magnetic field can get. The solar surface is shown in green; the black blobs are the south poles and the white blobs are the north poles of all the small magnets. The computer has drawn lines joining the magnetic poles to show where the magnetic field goes.



The lines form a tangled mess of spaghetti! Sometimes this is called the Sun's 'magnetic carpet'. It keeps changing all the time. It's as if the carpet in your room changed its pattern every couple of days. Weird, or what?


Here is a picture of a strange looking firefly taken by TRACE.


A moving magnetic field creates an electric current, so all the little magnets create strong electric currents as they move about. Since the energy in an electric current can be used to heat things, this solar electricity heats the plasma and we get the bright points.


Only the plasma in the magnetic fields that move gets hot, so only some parts appear bright when we look at the X-rays coming from the Sun. If the magnetic field is very complicated, then the bright point may have a strange shape... like a pair of wings!





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