Probing the solar transition region: current status and future perspectives
The solar transition region (TR) is the temperature regime from roughly 0.02 MK to 0.8 MK in the solar atmosphere. It is the transition layer from the collisional and partially ionized chromosphere to the collisionless and fully ionized corona. The TR plays an important role in the mass and energy transport in both the quiet solar atmosphere and solar eruptions. Most of the TR emission lines fall into the spectral range of far ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet (∼400 Å–1600 Å). Imaging and spectroscopic observations in this spectral range are the most important ways to obtain information about the physics of the TR. Static solar atmosphere models predict a very thin TR. However, recent high-resolution observations indicate that the TR is highly dynamic and inhomogeneous. I will summarize some major findings about the TR made through imaging and spectroscopic observations in the past 20 years. These existing observations have demonstrated that the TR may be the key to understanding coronal heating and origin of the solar wind. Future exploration of the solar TR may need to focus on the upper TR, since the plasma in this temperature regime (0.1 MK–0.8 MK) has not been routinely imaged before. High-resolution imaging and spectroscopic observations of the upper TR will not only allow us to track the mass and energy from the lower atmosphere to the corona, but also help us to understand the initiation and heating mechanisms of coronal mass ejections and solar flares.
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