Jan 30, 2020 - Science

New telescope takes highest-resolution photo of the Sun's surface

A photo showing the Sun's surface as it boils with yellow plasma
The highest-resolution photo of the Sun's surface ever taken. Photo: NSO/NSF/AURA

New photos and videos reveal the surface of the Sun in sharper detail than ever before.

Why it matters: Images and videos like these taken by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawaii can help scientists understand the inner workings of our nearest star, potentially helping predict dangerous space weather in the future.

Details: The scale of the new images is immense. Each of the bright cells bubbling up on the Sun's surface is about the size of Texas.

  • The plasma gets its unique, popcorn-like look due to "violent motions" within the Sun that move heat from the star's interior outward to its surface, according to the NSF.
  • The hottest plasma moves into the centers of the cells before cooling and sinking, according to the NSF.
  • "I’m extremely excited to be positioned to observe the first sunspots of the new solar cycle just now ramping up with this incredible telescope," Thomas Rimmele, the solar telescope's director, said in a statement.

The bottom line: Scientists hope to use photos and other data gathered by the new telescope to help predict solar storms — bursts of charged particles streaming from the Sun that can put spacecraft and people in space or even power grids on Earth in danger.

Go deeper: Our violent Sun

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