Researchers find this works in ‘the same way that a perfectly-timed repeated push on a swing can make it go higher’, as Phys.org reports:
Modern telescopes and satellites have helped us measure the blazing hot temperatures of the sun from afar. Mostly the temperatures follow a clear pattern: The sun produces energy by fusing hydrogen in its core, so the layers surrounding the core generally get cooler as you move outwards—with one exception.
Two NASA missions have just made a significant step towards understanding why the corona—the outermost, wispy layer of the sun’s atmosphere —is hundreds of times hotter than the lower photosphere, which is the sun’s visible surface [aka the coronal heating problem]
In a pair of papers in The Astrophysical Journal, published on August 10, 2015, researchers—led by Joten Okamoto of Nagoya University in Japan and Patrick Antolin of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan—observed a long-hypothesized mechanism for coronal heating, in which magnetic waves are converted into heat energy. Past papers have suggested that magnetic waves in the sun—Alfvénic waves – have enough energy to heat up the corona. The question has been how that energy is converted to heat.
“For over 30 years scientists hypothesized a mechanism for how these waves heat the plasma,” said Antolin. “An essential part of this process is called resonant absorption—and we have now directly observed resonant absorption for the first time.”
Resonant absorption is a complicated wave process in which repeated waves add energy to the solar material, a charged gas known as plasma, the same way that a perfectly-timed repeated push on a swing can make it go higher. Resonant absorption has signatures that can be seen in material moving side to side and front to back.
Full Phys.org report here: IRIS and Hinode: A Stellar research team.