New Telescope Gives Scientists Amazingly Detailed Solar Images

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Researchers have obtained images of the surface of the sun which have shown more detail than ever before. Using the Inouye Solar Telescope, based in Maui, Hawaii the photographs show even tiny details in the magnetic field around the sun.

The project, funded by the NSF (National Science Foundation) is based at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) where the telescope is housed. Previously the smallest features visible were 160km in size, with this new telescope researchers can get images of features as small as 30km.

The Inouye Solar telescope has been able to provide the highest resolution mages of the surface of the sun ever seen. The images show bright specs in the magnetic field which are thought to channel energy through to the outer solar atmosphere. 

It may help scientists understand how the outer layer, the corona, is around 1 million degrees Celsius hotter than the sun’s surface, which is said to be in the region of 5.5K degrees.

The Inouye Solar Telescope is based at the top of the 10,000-foot-high Haleakala and the image quality is due to the primary mirror which measures around 4 meters. This is the largest primary mirror of any telescope, the next largest being just 1.6meters in size. 

This has dramatically increased the telescope’s ability to pick up very small details on the sun’s surface.

New Technology Providing New Insights

Alongside other innovations such as NASA's Parker Solar Probe and the forthcoming European Space Agency/NASA Solar Orbiter, the Inouye Solar Telescope represents an exciting time for solar physicists. 

Twitter/ @NatlSolarObservatory

This new technology can work together to provide new insights into how stars, planets and the sun are all connected magnetically.

The new data from the telescope was first available in 2019 and will now be combined with that of the other probes to help scientists develop a greater understanding of space weather and how this can impact us here on Earth. 

While we are easily able to predict our own planetary weather, space weather remains a mystery; a mystery that we are now one step closer to solving. It is anticipated that the solar telescope will help physicists study the physics behind space weather at the source; the sun.

As more and more instruments start to come online more fine details will emerge and during the next 6 months both scientists and engineers will be working hard to get systems online that researchers can use on a global scale.