Without special instrumentation, the Sun looks calm and inert. But beneath that placid façade are countless miniature explosions called nanoflares.
These small but intense eruptions are born when magnetic field lines in the Sun’s atmosphere tangle up and stretch until they break like a rubber band. The energy they release accelerates particles to near lightspeed and according to some scientists, heats the solar atmosphere to its searing million-degree Fahrenheit temperature.
Finding the traces of nanoflares requires X-ray vision, and scientists have been hard at work developing the best tools for the job. The latest advance in this project is represented by NASA’s Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager, or FOXSI, sounding rocket mission, soon to take its third flight from the White Sands Missile Range in White Sands, New Mexico, no earlier than Sept.
Learn about the FOXSI 3 Mission