Rare ‘solar corona’ caught on camera

The elusive ‘solar corona’ – a plasma gas atmosphere around the sun where temperatures reach two million degrees – visible only during a total eclipse, has been captured on camera.

Published: 12:30PM GMT 10 Mar 2010

A solar eclipse over the Marshall Islands in July 2009 A solar eclipse over Bor Udzuur in Mongolia in August 2008


A solar eclipse over Bor Udzuur in Mongolia in August 2008 Photo: Miloslav Druckmuller / SWNS

The pictures were taken during an eclipse over the isolated Marshall Islands, near Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean.

Click here to see a high-resolution version of the image

Ten times as dense as the centre of the sun, the corona only produces about one-millionth as much light – meaning that it can only be seen when ‘lit up’ during an eclipse.

The main radiation from the sun’s surface during a total solar eclipse is blocked by the passage of the moon enabling rare viewings of the corona.

Organised by the Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic, the shadow-tracking expedition took these remarkable pictures to study changes in the plasma.

Professor Miloslav Druckmuller, 56, who took the pictures, said: ”Even though the reason for taking the photographs was science, the result shows the enormous beauty of nature.

”The expedition itself is a terrible stress. One single stupid mistake like pressing the wrong button on a keyboard may destroy everything.”

The mysterious corona has puzzled scientists for years – it extends more than a million kilometres from the sun yet is over 200 times hotter than the sun’s visible surface.

The source of the corona’s heat is still the subject of debate, but is likely to include the Sun’s magnetic field and sonic pressure waves from below the sun.

Prof Druckmuller will continue his research of the corona at the next solar eclipse in July.