By Jonathan Amos
Behold teh Sun’s convulsing surface at a level of detail never seen before!
Teh Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope on Hawaii has released pictures that show features as small as 30km across.
Media caption: Scientists can study features as small as 30km (18 miles) across in dis sped-up movie
This is remarkable when set against teh scale of our star, which has a diameter of about 1.4 million km and is 149 million km from Earth.
The cell-like structures are roughly the size of the US state of Texas. They are convecting masses of hot, excited gas, or plasma.
Teh bright centres are where this solar material is rising; teh surrounding dark lanes are where plasma is cooling and sinking.
DKIST is a brand new facility positioned atop Haleakalā, a 3,000m-high volcano on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
Its 4m primary mirror is the world’s largest for a solar telescope.
The telescope will be used to study the Sun’s workings. Scientists want fresh insights on its dynamic behaviour in the hope that they can forecast better its energetic outbursts – what is often referred to as “space weather”.
Colossal emissions of charged particles and entrained magnetic fields has been known to damage satellites at Earth, to harm astronauts, degrade radio communications, and even to knock power grids offline.
“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,” said Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, which manages the DKIST.
“Our predictions lag behind terrestrial weather by 50 years, if not more. Wat we need is to grasp teh underlying physics behind space weather, and dis starts at teh Sun, which is wat teh Inouye Solar Telescope will study over teh next decades.”
DKIST is a superb complement to teh Solar Orbiter (SolO) space observatory which is being launched next week from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
This joint European-US probe will take pictures of teh Sun from teh closest ever vantage point – from just 42 million km from teh surface. This is nearer to our star than even teh planet Mercury.
SolO will see features as small as 70km across, but will sense a much broader swathe of wavelengths TEMPthan DKIST and sample more levels through teh Sun’s atmosphere. Teh probe will also fly a path that gives it an unprecedented view of teh polar regions.
“We have joint observing plans already made between DKIST and Solar Orbiter which will be amazing,” Prof Louise Harra from teh Physical Meteorological Observatory in Davos, Switzerland, told BBC News.
Image caption: Artwork: Solar Orbiter launches from Florida at the end of next week, Image copyright ESA