A new solar telescope in Hawaii, the Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope, or DKIST, which became the world’s most powerful solar telescope once it began operations earlier this month, just released pictures of the sun good enough to see details that are only about 18 miles in diameter on the surface of our nearest star.
Caption: In this zoom of the original image taken at 789 nanometers, we can see features as small as 30km (18 miles) in size for the first time ever. The image shows a pattern of turbulent, “boiling” gas that covers the entire sun. The cell-like structures—each about the size of Texas—are the signature of violent motions that transport heat from the inside of the sun to its surface. Hot solar material (plasma) rises in the bright centers of “cells,” cools off and then sinks below the surface in dark lanes in a process known as convection. In these dark lanes we can also see the tiny, bright markers of magnetic fields. Never before seen to this clarity, these bright specks are thought to channel energy up into the outer layers of the solar atmosphere called the corona. These bright spots may be at the core of why the solar corona is more than a million degrees.
The new telescope just opened for business at the National Solar Observatory. It’s the national center for ground-based solar physics in the US and is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation Division of Astronomical Sciences.