Discover these spectacular images of the Sun with the highest resolution ever

The highest resolution image of the Sun’s surface ever taken. | NSO / AURA / NSF

A new telescope specially designed to study the Sun has released its first images, and they are breathtaking. They show the surface of the Sun like never before, revealing the extraordinary details of its surface, convection granules the size of Texas as well as tiny magnetic characteristics (like lines of magnetic field which extend in space).

The telescope that provided these images is the National Science Foundation's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, located in Haleakalā (Maui), Hawaii.

His future observations will provide a much broader insight into the wild dynamics of the solar surface and how it affects the Earth. " This is literally the greatest advance in mankind's ability to study the Sun from the ground, since the time of Galilee, " said astronomer Jeff Kuhn of the Institute of Astronomy in Māno, from the University of Hawaii.

These moving spots that you can see in the video below, are called granules . These are the tops of the convection cells in the solar plasma, with hot plasma rising in the middle, then falling down at the edges when it moves outwards and cools. Each granule is extremely large: up to 1600 km in diameter. In comparison, the US state of Texas is approximately 1,270 kilometers long.

Study magnetic fields to understand more about solar dynamics

These images are of course extraordinary, but scientists are particularly interested in the magnetic fields, twisted and tangled by the plasma, which can cause powerful solar storms, capable of interrupting the electrical networks here on Earth (although such consequences are rare).

However, less powerful solar storms can still impact communication and navigation systems and generate magnificent auroras. But today our understanding and ability to predict space weather is still extremely limited. As a result, scientists hope that this telescope will help them better understand solar phenomena.

" On Earth, we can predict if it will rain almost anywhere in the world in a very precise way, but this is not the case with space weather, " said Matt Mountain of the Association of Universities for research in astronomy, which manages the solar telescope. " What we need is to understand the physics behind space weather, and it starts with the Sun, which the Inouye solar telescope will study in the coming decades, " he said. added.

This is none other than the highest resolution snapshot of the Sun's surface ever taken. Credits: NSO / AURA / NSF

Thanks to its many advanced instruments (some of which are not yet operational), the telescope will be able to measure and characterize magnetic fields precisely, like never before.

These measurements could then teach us more about solar storms and how to detect them before they happen: at the moment, we only get to know about 48 minutes in advance. Scientists hope that improving our understanding of the behavior of magnetic fields, leading to a solar storm, could increase this time to 48 hours.

"It all depends on the magnetic field, " said Thomas Rimmele, director of the Inouye solar telescope. " To unravel the greatest mysteries of the Sun, we must not only be able to clearly see these tiny structures located 150 million kilometers away, but also to measure very precisely the strength and direction of the magnetic field near the surface and to trace its extension in the crown, the outside atmosphere of the Sun, to a million degrees, "he added.

The largest square on the surface of the sun is the entire image taken by the telescope. The enlarged (an area of ​​the first square) is a zoom making 7000 kilometers along its length. The small box in the zoom represents approximately the size of Texas. Finally, the tiny point which is almost invisible, is about the size of Manhattan. Credits: NSO / NSF / AURA

In the coming months, additional instruments will reinforce the already phenomenal power of the telescope.

There will be the near infrared cryogenic spectropolarimeter (CryoNIRSP), which is designed to take measurements of the solar magnetic field beyond the visible solar disk, in the crown. And also the near infrared limited diffraction spectropolarimeter (DL-NIRSP), which will study magnetic fields and their polarization with high spectral and spatial resolution.

“These first images are just the start! Said astronomer David Boboltz of the National Science Foundation's Astronomical Sciences Division." The Inouye solar telescope will collect more information about our Sun during the first 5 years of its life than all the solar data collected since Galileo pointed a telescope to the sun in 1612," he added. . The telescope is expected to be fully completed by June 2020.


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