Structure of solar coronal loops: from miniature to large-scale ⋆
1 Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research, 37191 Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany
2 Heliophysics Division, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA
3 Southwest Research Institute, Instrumentation and Space Research Division, Boulder, CO 80302, USA
4 Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA, Mail Code ZP13, MSFC, Alabama 35812, USA
5 Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 01238, USA
6 Center for Space and Aeronautic Research, University of Alabama, Huntsville, Alabama 35812, USA
Received: 3 May 2013
Accepted: 20 June 2013
Aims. We use new data from the High-resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) with its unprecedented spatial resolution of the solar corona to investigate the structure of coronal loops down to 0.2′′.
Methods. During a rocket flight, Hi-C provided images of the solar corona in a wavelength band around 193 Å that is dominated by emission from Fe xii showing plasma at temperatures around 1.5 MK. We analyze part of the Hi-C field-of-view to study the smallest coronal loops observed so far and search for the possible substructuring of larger loops.
Results. We find tiny 1.5 MK loop-like structures that we interpret as miniature coronal loops. Their coronal segments above the chromosphere have a length of only about 1 Mm and a thickness of less than 200 km. They could be interpreted as the coronal signature of small flux tubes breaking through the photosphere with a footpoint distance corresponding to the diameter of a cell of granulation. We find that loops that are longer than 50 Mm have diameters of about 2′′ or 1.5 Mm, which is consistent with previous observations. However, Hi-C really resolves these loops with some 20 pixels across the loop. Even at this greatly improved spatial resolution, the large loops seem to have no visible substructure. Instead they show a smooth variation in cross-section.
Conclusions. That the large coronal loops do not show a substructure on the spatial scale of 0.1′′ per pixel implies that either the densities and temperatures are smoothly varying across these loops or it places an upper limit on the diameter of the strands the loops might be composed of. We estimate that strands that compose the 2′′ thick loop would have to be thinner than 15 km. The miniature loops we find for the first time pose a challenge to be properly understood through modeling.
Key words: Sun: corona / magnetic fields / Sun: UV radiation / Sun: activity / methods: data analysis
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© ESO, 2013