The world’s most powerful ground-based solar telescope have given us a spectacular look at various sunspots and quiet regions of the sun in unprecedented detail with the release of eight photos earlier this month.
The National Science Foundation’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is helping solar scientists better understand the sun’s magnetic field and what causes explosive solar storms, according to the NSF.
In this image, the fibrillar nature of the solar atmosphere is exemplified. Dark, fine threads (fibrils) are ubiquitous in the chromosphere. The outline of bright structures are signature of the presence of magnetic fields in the photosphere below. This image was captured by the Inouye Solar Telescope during a coordinated observation campaign with NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and ESA’s Solar Orbiter.
The sunspots in the images are dark and cooler regions on the sun’s surface, known as the photosphere, where strong magnetic fields are found, according to the National Solar Observatory.
And while sunspots can be a variety of sizes, the NSO says many are the size of Earth or larger. Groups of sunspots can be the source of explosive events, like solar flares and coronal mass ejections that generate solar storms significantly impacting Earth, including disruptions to critical infrastructure or leading to vibrant northern lights displays.
The NSO said that in the quiet regions of the sun, the images show a vast display of convection cells in the photosphere that have a pattern of upward-flowing plasma (granules) surrounded by darker lanes of cooler, down-flowing solar plasma.
Above the photosphere in the chromosphere, photos show dark, elongated fibrils that originate from areas of small-scale magnetic field accumulations, according to the NSO.
The recently released photos of the sun only make up a small fraction of data obtained from the first cycle of the Inouye Solar Telescope. The NSO said the newly inaugurated telescope is still in its Operations Commissioning Phase, a period in which the telescope is slowly brought up to its full operational capabilities.