Bad Astronomy Video: Megatons Away From Ordinary

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May 4, 2015
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The Sun is hot.

Yeah, I know, duh. It’s literally white-hot; glowing at a temperature of more than 5,500° Celsius. But it’s hotter than that: Its whisper-thin atmosphere, the corona, is actually far, far hotter, seething and writhing at more than 2 million degrees!

How does it stay that hot? After a long search spanning decades, astronomers think they’ve found the Sun’s heat engine: nanoflares. Find out how they work in this week’s Bad Astronomy Video.

Even though I’ve been an astronomer nearly all my life, and deal with huge numbers all the time, every now and again I have to back out of my own head a little and chuckle.

Only astronomers would refer to millions of explosions every second, each equal to detonating tens of millions of tons of TNT, using the prefix “nano.”

Watch more of Slate’s Bad Astronomy videos with Phil Plait.