Presentation #328.08 in the session “Solar Physics Division (SPD): Simulations, Magnetic Fields, and Coronal Structure and Heating”.
Coronal loops reveal crucial information about the nature of both coronal magnetic fields and coronal heating. The shape of the corresponding flux tube cross section and how it varies with position are especially important properties. They are a direct indication of the expansion of the field and of the cross-field spatial distribution of the heating. We have studied 20 loops using high spatial resolution observations from the first flight of the Hi-C rocket experiment, measuring the intensity and width as a function of position along the loop axis. We find that intensity and width tend to either be uncorrelated or to have a direct dependence, such that they increase or decrease together. This implies that the flux tube cross sections are approximately circular under the assumptions that the tubes have non-negligible twist and that the plasma emissivity is approximately uniform along the magnetic field. The shape need not be a perfect circle and the emissivity need not be uniform within the cross section, but sub-resolution patches of emission must be distributed quasi-uniformly within an envelope that has an aspect ratio of order unity. This raises questions about the suggestion that flux tubes expand with height, but primarily in the line-of-sight direction so that the corresponding (relatively noticeable) loops appear to have roughly uniform width, a long-standing puzzle. It also casts doubt on the idea that most loops correspond to simple warped sheets, although we leave open the possibility of more complex manifold structures.