Inouye Solar Telescope captures its first image of a sunspot

Date:8 December 2020

The U.S. National Science Foundation [NSF] Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope just released its first image of a sunspot. The telescope’s four-meter primary mirror will give the best views of the Sun from Earth throughout the next solar cycle.

This image is an indication of the telescope’s advanced optics.

Inouye Solar Telescope captures its first image of a sunspot

The image, initially taken on 28 January 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. Rimmele is the associate director at NSF’s National Solar Observatory (NSO), the organisation responsible for building and operating the Inouye Solar Telescope.

“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.

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.

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 4148 degrees Celcius.

This sunspot image, measuring about 16,093 kilometers across, is just a tiny part of the Sun. However, the sunspot is large enough that Earth could comfortably fit inside.

“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 organisation 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.”



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