Eddie Gonzales Jr. – MessageToEagle.com – The world’s largest solar observatory, the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, located on the island of Maui in Hawaii just released its first image of a sunspot.
Although the telescope is still in the final phases of completion, the image is an indication of how the telescope’s advanced optics and the four-meter primary mirror will give scientists the best view of the Sun from Earth throughout the next solar cycle.
The first sunspot image taken on Jan. 28, 2020, by the NSF’s Inouye Solar Telescope’s Wave Front Correction context viewer. The image reveals striking details of the sunspot’s structure as seen at the sun’s surface. The sunspot is sculpted by a convergence of intense magnetic fields and hot gas boiling up from below. This image uses a warm palette of red and orange, but the context viewer took this sunspot image at the wavelength of 530 nanometers — in the greenish-yellow part of the visible spectrum. This is not the same naked eye sunspot group visible on the sun in late November and early December 2020. Credit: NSO/AURA/NSF
The image, taken January 28, 2020, is not the same naked eye sunspot currently visible on the Sun. This sunspot image accompanies a new paper by Dr. Thomas Rimmele and his team.
“The sunspot image achieves a spatial resolution about 2.5 times higher than ever previously achieved, showing magnetic structures as small as 20 kilometers on the surface of the sun,” said Rimmele, associate director at NSF’s National Solar Observatory (NSO), the organization responsible for building and operating the Inouye Solar Telescope.
The image reveals striking details of the sunspot’s structure as seen at the Sun’s surface. The streaky appearance of hot and cool gas spidering out from the darker center is the result of sculpting by a convergence of intense magnetic fields and hot gasses boiling up from below.
The concentration of magnetic fields in this dark region suppresses heat within the Sun from reaching the surface. Although the dark area of the sunspot is cooler than the surrounding area of the Sun, it is still extremely hot with a temperature of more than 7,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
This sunspot image, measuring about 10,000 miles across, is just a tiny part of the Sun but it is large enough that Earth could comfortably fit inside. The Sun reached a solar minimum, the time of fewest sunspots during its 11-year solar cycle, in December 2019. This sunspot was one of the first of the new solar cycle. The solar maximum for the current solar cycle is predicted in mid-2025.
“With this solar cycle just beginning, we also enter the era of the Inouye Solar Telescope,” says Dr. Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), the organization that manages NSO and the Inouye Solar Telescope.
“We can now point the world’s most advanced solar telescope at the Sun to capture and share incredibly detailed images and add to our scientific insights about the Sun’s activity.”
“While the start of telescope operations has been slightly delayed due to the impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic,” said Dr. David Boboltz, NSF Program Director for the Inouye Solar Telescope, “this image represents an early preview of the unprecedented capabilities that the facility will bring to bear on our understanding of the Sun.”
Written by Eddie Gonzales Jr. – MessageToEagle.com Staff