Close-Up Video Shows Turbulent Gas Covering the Sun’s Surface in New Detail

The world’s largest and most powerful solar telescope has captured the highest-resolution images of the sun’s surface ever taken, say scientists at the National Solar Observatory.

The images show roiling plasma transporting heat from inside the sun to its surface.  They’re the first to be released from the National Science Foundation’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawaii.

Researchers say the new telescope will generate a revolution in the scientific  understanding of the sun.

The new technology will improve researchers’ understanding of what drives space weather, says Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which manages the telescope. It also will help forecasters predict solar storms that can cause power blackouts and other disruptions on Earth, 93 million miles away.

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“On Earth, we can predict if it is going to rain pretty much anywhere in the world very accurately, and space weather just isn’t there yet,” he said in a statement. “Our predictions lag behind terrestrial weather by 50 years, if not more. 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 another statement, France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation, said,“NSF’s Inouye Solar Telescope will be able to map the magnetic fields within the sun’s corona, where solar eruptions occur that can impact life on Earth.”

“The world’s most powerful solar telescope has opened its eyes,” Alexandra Witze wrote in Nature.com.

The telescope captured the images in December. Read more about it in the National Solar Observatory’s release.

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