The Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope, located on the Hawaiian Island Maui, has captured high-resolution images of the sun’s surface. The images show the hot blazing surface of the sun with a level of detail that has never been seen before. These are the highest resolution of the sun to date.
These incredible images have commenced a long-term study of the sun that scientists expect to last for a few decades. The images show magnetic structures on the surface of the sun in close detail.
The Quest to Unravel Solar Mysteries
High-resolution images and data captured by the telescope will help scientists understand some of the perplexing mysteries of the sun. One such mystery – as counterintuitive as it seems – is concerned with the corona or the outer surface of the sun. The corona is inexplicably hotter as compared to the visible exterior of the sun.
Motivation for Solar Research
By finding answers to such mysteries, scientists will have a better understanding of sun’s behaviour. Periodic bursts of charged particles from the sun cause upheavals in communication systems, manmade satellites, and power grids on earth.
The study of these images will help scientists understand more about the sun’s behaviour. The sun can blast enormous jets of plasma that are known as coronal mass emissions – CMEs. The biggest CMEs can cause immense disruptions on earth like the 1989 CME that initiated a 9-hour blackout in Quebec. Scientists estimate that disasters like these can result in damage worth trillions of dollars.
Sun’s Surface Pattern
The images show the surface of the sun in vivid detail. The surface of the sun appears to be covered in an unsymmetrical honeycomb pattern of material. The dark lines show where heat is going back into the sun, whereas the bright patches show areas where heat is radiating from the sun’s surface. The bright spots are hundreds of kilometers across on average – roughly the size of a country like France.
Construction of the Inouye Solar Telescope started in 2012. The construction work is now in its final phases and soon all components of the telescope will be online.
But it’s not just the tremendous high-resolution capability of the telescope that is helpful to scientists. The flexibility of the telescope and its ability to receive upgrades are of equal importance, considering the fact that the telescope is supposed to be in operation for at least 44 years. The 44-year time duration will allow scientists to capture information from 2 solar cycles. The time period of a solar cycle is 22 years.
Thanks to its flexibility and upgrade capabilities, the solar telescope is being described as a “Swiss Army Knife.”
Data from the solar telescope will be combined with information gathered by the Solar Orbiter (space probe launched in 2018) and Parker Solar Probe (to be launched this year) to discover more about the sun’s behaviour.
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