Solar Edge

  • Released Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How big is the sun’s atmosphere? In a word: huge. Like Earth, the sun’s atmosphere consists of multiple layers. It has a lower atmosphere, called the chromosphere, and a significantly larger upper atmosphere, called the corona. Although the exact boundaries of these regions are fuzzy, the outer limit of the corona is marked by the place where the sun’s solar wind breaks free. Using NASA’s STEREO spacecraft, scientists have found the extent of the corona is greater than previously thought, stretching some five million miles from the surface. The distance is equivalent to approximately six times the sun's length. Knowing this information will help guide the planning of future sun-observing missions. Watch the video to see solar material streaming from the sun.

The sun itself is small in comparison to the size of its atmosphere.

The sun itself is small in comparison to the size of its atmosphere.

This view of the sun highlights material in the corona that's close to the surface.

This view of the sun highlights material in the corona that's close to the surface.

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Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Cover image courtesy of NASA/STEREO
Video courtesy of ESA/NASA/SOHO/Alzate
Sun images courtesy of ESA/NASA/SOHO

Release date

This page was originally published on Tuesday, September 23, 2014.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 1:50 PM EDT.