Telescope captures unique, detailed images of the sun

  • Telescope captures unique, detailed images of the sun

Telescope captures unique, detailed images of the sun

A new telescope built to study the Sun has released its first images, and they are just breathtaking. As seen through the brand-new Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawaii, the sun looks like a boiling pot of popcorn, belying the notion of a bland yellow orb. Its incredible observations will provide much greater insight into the wild dynamics of the solar surface, and how they impact us on Earth. That hot solar plasma rises in the bright centers of "cells", cools, then sinks below the surface in dark lanes in a process known as convection. The US state of Texas is around 1,270 kilometres (790 miles) long.

"This telescope will improve our understanding of what drives space weather and ultimately help forecasters better predict solar storms", said National Science Foundation Director France Córdova. Twisted magnetic fields can lead to solar storms that can negatively affect us; during 2017's Hurricane Irma, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that a simultaneous space weather event brought down radio communications used by first responders, aviation and maritime channels for eight hours on the day the hurricane made landfall. The surface of the roiling plasma appears broken into cell-like panels. He said the current predictions lagged behind terrestrial weather by 50 years or more.

David Boboltz, programme director in NSF's division of astronomical sciences and who oversees the facility's construction and operations said that over the next six months, the Inouye telescope's team of scientists, engineers and technicians will continue testing and commissioning the telescope to make it ready for use by the global solar scientific community.

"It's all about the magnetic field", said Thomas Rimmele, director of the Inouye Solar Telescope.

With its suite of state-of-the-art instruments, some of which are yet to come online, the telescope will be able to measure and characterise these magnetic fields better than we have ever done before.

The detailed image of the Sun’s surface was taken at 789 nm and depicts plasma which appears to boil
The detailed image of the Sun’s surface was taken at 789 nm and depicts plasma which appears to boil

Scientists are one step closer to unravelling the sun's biggest mysteries.

Joining the Inouye telescope in this coronal detective work are NASA's Parker Solar Probe, now orbiting the sun, and the joint NASA-European Space Agency Solar Orbiter, scheduled to be launched next week, in what amounts to a new coordinated effort to investigate our old shining friend. It weighs almost 2 tons and is created to measure the Sun's magnetic field beyond the visible solar disk.

The Diffraction-Limited Near-IR Spectropolarimeter (DL-NIRSP) will study magnetic fields and their polarisation with high spectral and spatial resolution.

The telescope is due to be completed by June of this year.