|‘This image covers an area 8,200 x 8,200 km (5,000 x 5,000 miles, 11 x 11 arcseconds).’ — Credit: NSO/AURA/NSF|
The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope has produced high-resolution images that show the Sun in ‘unprecedented detail,’ according to an announcement from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The telescope is located close to the summit of Maui’s Haleakala volcano. Each of the ‘cell-like structures’ visible in the images and video are approximately as large as Texas, according to NSF.
Understanding the Sun is an important step toward improving space weather forecasts, which will help humanity anticipate potentially disruptive events. The Inouye Solar Telescope is a key tool that will shed light on a number of the Sun’s mysteries. According to the NSF, having hours of advanced notice about potential space weather events will give officials time to put satellites and important infrastructure like power grids into safe mode.
The Inouye Solar Telescope features a massive 4m (13ft) mirror and more than 11km (7 miles) of piping as part of the cooling system that protects the telescope and its optics. The NSF explains that Inouye feature’s adaptive optics designed with an off-axis mirror placement that compensates for the blur that would otherwise result from the Earth’s atmosphere.
Astrophysicist and cosmologist Katie Mack chimed in on the above video, sharing a fun little anecdote about how the forces at work on the sun can be seen here on Earth in everyday life:
Here’s convection happening in a bowl of miso soup. Compare with gif above depicting THE FRICKIN’ SUN pic.twitter.com/SagHXqoBjr
— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) January 29, 2020
Ultimately, the Inouye Solar Telescope has the largest aperture of any solar telescope in the world, according to director Thomas Rimmele. The first half-decade of the telescope’s operation is expected to produce more solar data than humanity has generated in the past few hundred years.
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