Among the many constantly moving, appearing, disappearing and generally explosive events in the sun's atmosphere, there exist giant plumes of gas as wide as a state and as long as Earth that zoom up from the sun's surface at 150,000 miles per hour. Known as spicules, these are one of several phenomena known to transfer energy and heat throughout the sun's magnetic atmosphere, or corona.
Thanks to NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the Japanese satellite Hinode, these spicules have recently been imaged and measured better than ever before, showing them to contain hotter gas than previously observed. Thus, they may perhaps play a key role in helping to heat the sun's corona to a staggering million degrees or more. (A number made more surprising since the sun's surface itself is only about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.)
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