Bringing the sun into the lab

Why the sun’s corona reaches temperatures of several million degrees Celsius is one of the great mysteries of solar physics. A ‘hot’ trail to explain this effect leads to a region of the solar atmosphere just below the corona, where sound waves and certain plasma waves travel at the same speed. In an experiment using the molten alkali metal rubidium and pulsed high magnetic fields, researchers have developed a laboratory model and experimentally confirmed the theoretically predicted behavior of these plasma waves.