Published: Thu, January 30, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Sun's surface seen in remarkable new detail

Sun's surface seen in remarkable new detail

This image is the first high-resolution shot from the 4-metre Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawai'i. For the next six months, scientists at the National Science Foundation, U.S. which hosts the DKIS telescope, hope to continue working on the telescope to make it ready for use by the global solar science community.

The telescope, which is perched on the top of a volcano on the Hawaiian island of Maui, is set to become more powerful over the next few months with the addition of several new instruments that will help map the Sun's magnetic fields in "extreme detail". "What we need is to grasp the underlying physics behind space weather, and this starts at the sun, which is what the Inouye Solar Telescope will study over the next decades". In some of these darker areas, we can also see the super-bright markers of magnetic fields, which are believed to channel energy up into the sun's outer atmosphere, or corona, heating it to more than a million degrees (in whatever scale you prefer) and radiating the mind-boggling levels of heat that provide the energy and warmth for all life on Earth, as well as scattering off in all other directions. They both play a role in space weather and solar storms, and understanding the solar wind could enable better prediction of space weather.

The special optical design of the four-meter telescope allows the measurement of the magnetism of the Sun out in the space. With this information, governments can better prepare for space weather - potentially 48 hours in advance, rather than the current 48 minute standard, per the press release. It also has a cooling system that can provide heat protection for the telescope and a dome to stabilize temperature.

More than 7 miles of piping will distribute coolant throughout the observatory. The massive mirror produces a lot of heat. For example, it's much smaller, much of the Inouye Solar Telescope's construction progress was done in private, and the military-guarded national park atop Haleakala made it more hard for protestors to access.

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"It's an exciting time to be a solar physicist", says Valentin Pillet, director of NSF's National Solar Observatory.

"This is just the beginning for the Inouye Solar Telescope", Raftery said. "Altogether, they constitute a genuinely multi-messenger undertaking to understand how stars and their planets are magnetically connected".

"Since NSF began work on this ground-based telescope, we have eagerly awaited the first images", said France Córdova, NSF director.

The telescope, positioned on the summit of Mt. Haleakala in Hawaii, has been a 10-year planning and construction project. It was originally known as the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, and was renamed in the honour of the late Senator Daniel Inouye in December 2013.

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