Scientists share highest resolution image of the sun's surface

Pablo Tucker
January 30, 2020

It has five instruments, chiefly the Visible Broadband Imager, which has a 16-megapixel sensor capable of snapping details as small as 15 miles (24.1km) across on the surface of the Sun. On Wednesday, the DKIST released this stunning image of the sun's surface, our most detailed look ever at the star.

This image is the first high-resolution shot from the 4-metre Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawai'i. They are convecting masses of hot, excited gas, or plasma.

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

"On Earth, we can predict if it is going to rain pretty much anywhere in the world very accurately, and space weather just isn't there yet", Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which manages the Inouye Solar Telescope, said in a press release.

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. Heat brings the gas to the surface at the bright centre of each cell, which then spreads out and descends back beneath the surface at the dark lines.

This telescope will also improve scientist's understanding of what drives space weather and ultimately help forecasters better predict solar storms. "Our predictions lag behind terrestrial weather by 50 years, if not more. What we need is to grasp the underlying physics behind space weather, and this starts at the Sun, which is what the Inouye Solar Telescope will study over the next decades". It can measure and characterize the sun's magnetic field in more detail than ever seen before and determine the causes of potentially harmful solar activity.

Solar magnetic fields constantly get twisted and tangled by the motions of the sun's plasma.

Like other telescopes on the Hawaiian islands, the Inouye Solar Telescope was met with resistance from local Hawaiians, as the site on which it sits is considered sacred ground.

The Diffraction-Limited Near-IR Spectropolarimeter (DL-NIRSP) will study magnetic fields and their polarisation with high spectral and spatial resolution. "To deal with these heat problems we make the equivalent of a swimming pool full of ice every night to provide cooling for the optics and structure during the day", said the director of the Inouye Solar Telescope Thomas Rimmele.

The four-meter telescope isn't complete yet and won't be until June. We can't wait to see what else it has to show us.

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