Boiling-Hot Popcorn Kernels of Plasma the Size of Texas Revealed in Highest-Resolution Photo of the Sun Ever Taken

Thursday, 30 January 2020 - 12:05PM
Sun
Thursday, 30 January 2020 - 12:05PM
Boiling-Hot Popcorn Kernels of Plasma the Size of Texas Revealed in Highest-Resolution Photo of the Sun Ever Taken
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Credit: NSO/AURA/NSF – CC BY 4.0
New images released from the National Science Foundation's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawai'i are currently the most vivid photographs we have of the surface of our Sun, and in striking unprecedented detail according to a report from The New York Times.


This recently released photo is a high-resolution close-up of the surface of the Sun that shows boiling popcorn kernels of plasma – each one of them roughly the size of Texas. You're looking at the process of searing hot solar plasma bubbling up through the bright centers, then boiling over, cooling, and sinking into the darkened borders.





Image Credit:
 NSO/AURA/NSFCC BY 4.0


The Sun's weather can seriously impact Earth. Solar storms cause Earth's magnetic field to go haywire, which can disrupt satellite and radio communications. "NSF's Inouye Solar Telescope will be able to map the magnetic fields within the Sun's corona, where solar eruptions occur that can impact life on Earth. This telescope will improve our understanding of what drives space weather and ultimately help forecasters better predict solar storms," said NSF director France Córdova in an official statement.


Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, continued, "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."


The Inouye Solar Telescope is intended to supplement NASA's Parker Solar Probe and the ESA's Solar Orbiter by imaging the outer layers of the Sun, while the probe and orbiter will then measure what the telescope sees in real-time. "With the largest aperture of any solar telescope, its unique design, and state-of-the-art instrumentation, the Inouye Solar Telescope - for the first time - will be able to perform the most challenging measurements of the Sun," noted Thomas Rimmele, the director of the Inouye Solar Telescope.


"These first images are just the beginning," said David Boboltz, who is one of the NSF's astronomical science program directors, adding:


"The Inouye Solar Telescope will collect more information about our Sun during the first 5 years of its lifetime than all the solar data gathered since Galileo first pointed a telescope at the Sun in 1612."





 

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