sun magnetic field
Scientists model the sun's magnetic field in the hope they can get a better understanding of it.NASA/SDO/AIA/LMSAL

Nasa scientists have created a image which represents the sun's magnetic field. The impressive illustration combines two pictures, a magnetic map which was put over an image captured by Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory, on 12 March.

The magnetic map itself was created thanks to a model called Potential Field Source Surface, which reproduces the magnetic field in the sun's atmosphere based on magnetic measurements of the solar surface. The sun's image was taken by Nasa using extreme ultraviolet wavelengths of 171 angstroms. Such light is invisible to the human eye, but for the purpose of this model, it was colourized in gold.

Improve scientific understanding

The sun is not the still, yellow disk it appears to be from afar. It is made of ionized gas plasma, a mix charged particles which create the sun's magnetic fields as they move.

Nasa scientists observe that in the illustration they have created, magnetic fields are densest near magnetically strong active regions, the bright spots visible on the sun. Additionally, many of the field lines link one active region to another.

Scientists hope such a model will improve their understanding of the sun's magnetic field, and how it continuously evolves due to constant movement in the solar atmosphere. This knowledge is crucial, because the sun's magnetic field is responsible for a range of phenomenons from the solar explosions that cause auroras to the interplanetary magnetic field and radiation which drives any spacecraft journeying in the solar system.

Two months ago, Nasa released a video showing similar stunning images, representing magnetic field activity between 2011 and 2013.