Massive explosions in the sun's atmosphere could help to explain a curious pattern of heat distribution that has puzzled researchers for decades, reports the BBC. The explosions were discovered within a brief five minutes of imagery captured by a NASA camera that's still in development. By comparing the images — which can be seen in the video below — a group of researchers led by professors at the University of Central Lancashire identified a new phenomenon they they've named "extreme ultraviolet bright dots," which they're colloquially referring to as "sparkles."
What's stumped researchers is how heat radiating from the sun is a "few million degrees" Kelvin while the sun's surface temperature remains much cooler at closer to 6000 K. The team thinks that these sparkles may be the answer. Their explosions release a massive amount of energy into the sun's atmosphere, which could give it a constant source of additional heat. According to the BBC, the sparkles contain about as much energy as the entire UK uses in one year — except they're released over just 25 seconds and occur fairly frequently. The research team is presenting their initial findings at the UK National Astronomy Meeting this week, but further research will need to be done to fully observe and verify the sun sparkle effect.