Jan 30, 2020

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

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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We're about to learn a lot more about the Sun

The Sun is getting its due. Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA

The Sun is getting a long-overdue close-up thanks to a number of new missions designed to reveal the inner workings of our nearest star.

Why it matters: The mechanisms that govern the solar wind, the Sun's 11-year cycle and magnetic fields are still largely a mystery.

Go deeperArrowFeb 11, 2020 - Science

Solar Orbiter to offer a new look at our nearest star

Artist's illustration of the Solar Orbiter. Image: NASA/NASA Goddard

A new mission expected to launch to space from Florida on Sunday will give scientists an unprecedented view of the Sun.

Why it matters: Despite decades of studying our closest star, scientists still can't accurately predict our Sun's behavior — when it will eject solar flares, sprout sunspots or how the solar wind works.

Go deeperArrowFeb 4, 2020 - Science

Astronomers capture a stellar deep space confrontation

Photo: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Olofsson, et al.

There's no match for the drama of a confrontation in deep space. Astronomers spotted this gas cloud created when one dying star became a red giant, growing large enough to encircle a companion star.

What's happening: The companion star then fell toward the dying one, forcing it to slough off its outer layers of gas, according to the European Southern Observatory, exposing its core.

Go deeperArrowFeb 12, 2020 - Science