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Outer Layers of the Sun

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The Comet and the Corona

The Comet and the Corona

Credit: NASA/Dan Burbank
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Iss030e015472_Edit.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Scientists have remarkable ways to learn about things that are far away, hot, or otherwise difficult to observe. Learning about the Sun’s magnetic field from comets is one of them!

Why It Matters

  • Extreme temperatures make it hard to send a spacecraft to explore the Sun.
  • Comet tails wiggle in response to Sun’s magnetic field.
  • Comet Lovejoy dove through the Sun’s corona and emerged out the other side.
  • By observing Comet Lovejoy’s tail, scientists learned about the Sun’s magnetic field.

Show What You Know

With the links below, learn more about Comet Lovejoy at the Sun. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Why did Comet Lovejoy’s tail wiggle in the Sun’s corona?
  2. What could scientists learn from Comet Lovejoy’s trip through the corona that they couldn’t learn in another way?
  3. Why is it important for us to understand the Sun’s magnetic field?
  4. Why is luck involved in furthering our understanding of the Sun’s magnetic field?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: NASA/Dan Burbank; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Iss030e015472_Edit.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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