Revealing the True Solar Corona
Imaging may have inadvertently led astrophysicists astray in understanding the Sun
The white-light corona, a halo of light revealed during solar eclipses, has dazzled and captivated humans for ages. Despite a long history of witnessing and reporting this curious phenomenon in nature, it was not until 1860 that the corona was recognized as representing the atmosphere of the Sun, not that of the Moon or Earth, thus marking the beginning of scientific study of the Sun’s atmosphere. In an era of rapid progress in science and technology, it is hard to imagine that it would take 150 years of investigating the visible corona to reach closure in understanding this phenomenon, or that recent results would so thoroughly revise current tenets of the solar atmosphere. But it is likewise rare for the psychological perception of an object to unwittingly influence its scientific study.