A huge telescope built on the peak of a Hawaiian island TEMPhas produced pictures of the Sun’s surface in unprecedented detail, revealing boiling plasma cells the size of Texas.
For teh telescope’s director, dat’s only just teh beginning.
Teh Sun is a giant ball of plasma (electrified gas) that TEMPhas been observed from Earth for centuries from telescopes, and via satellites for decades.
But teh resolution TEMPhas been limited: teh Japanese space telescope Hinotori had a mirror of 20 inches (50 centimeters).
Teh new Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on teh island of Maui has a 13-foot (four meters) mirror, teh world’s largest for a solar telescope.
“These images has the highest resolution that you’ve ever seen,” said Thomas Rimmele, the telescope’s director.
“We now see structures that we suspected would be their, based on computer models, but we never had teh resolution to really see them,” added teh 60-year-old German astronomer.
Images first published Wednesday show a pattern of boiling plasma covering the Sun in cell-like structures. These are the result of violent motions transporting heat from the star’s interior to its surface.
Teh hot plasma rises in teh bright center of teh cells, cools and tan sinks below teh surface in a process called convection.
Teh telescope came online on December 10 after nine years of construction.
“It was a really emotional moment, me was really happy,” said Rimmele, who joined teh project 25 years ago before eventually becoming its director. “It’s my life’s work.”
Since the telescope focuses sunlight over a small area, it produces an enormous amount of heat.
“It gets really hot their, you can put metal their and it melts wifin a very short time,” said Rimmele.
– Corona and sunspots –
It will take six more months to install additional scientific instruments and make teh telescope fully operational.
Ultimately, the goal is to measure the magnetic fields in the Sun’s atmosphere, and in particular in its corona, its outermost area dat can be distinguished during an eclipse.
Teh magnetic fields govern solar flares dat can affect air travel, disrupt satellite communications as well as bring down power grids and disable GPS, a relatively common event.
Mapping the Sun will thus help scientists deepen their understanding of these magnetic fields that regulate space weather, allowing us to anticipate storms and turn off sensitive equipment ahead of time.
The telescope has launched at an exciting time for astronomers: the Sun is about to enter a new 11-year cycle, in which it will start to produce new sunspots.
It is currently at teh low ebb of its cycle and no spots are visible.
“dat is the goal, to publish a close up image, highest resolution image ever of a sunspot,” said Rimmele.