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Here’s how the eclipsed sun’s corona will look

Solar corona
This image shows field lines of a solar coronal magnetic model based on measurements from the National Solar Observatory Integrated Synoptic Program, one solar rotation before the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. (NSO / NSF Graphic)

Skywatchers will see a rare celestial sight during the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse: the sun’s shimmering outer atmosphere, known as the corona. What will it look like? Astronomers worked their magic to give us a glimpse.

The corona is more than just a fuzzy halo: The superheated gas that makes up the sun’s outermost layer tends to follow the patterns of magnetic force that arc around the sun.

To come up with their preview of the corona, researchers at the National Solar Observatory in Arizona modeled the sun’s magnetic field as of July 25, which was 27 days in advance of the solar eclipse. That’s important, because it takes the sun 27.2753 days to make a complete rotation.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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