The most accurate photo of the Sun surface in history. This is the beginning of a new era of our star s research

Scientists have just published the first images taken with a new telescope in Hawaii. This is one of three instruments that will revolutionize our knowledge of the Sun in the coming decade.

Although the Sun is the only star we have right under our noses (the average distance of the Earth from the Sun is only 150,000,000 km), we still do not know much about it. To this day, astronomers, or actually heliophysicists, do not know why the external atmosphere of the Sun is much hotter than its surface, which drives the 11-year cycle of magnetic activity, or what is responsible for the emission of high-energy solar wind particles that fill the entire Solar System.

However, now there is a good chance that this will change. In August 2018, NASA sent a Parker Solar Probe to the Sun, which will gradually approach the star, studying its atmosphere. When the maximum approach to its destination, Parker Solar Probe will become the fastest probe ever sent by humans, while approaching the surface of the Sun at a distance of only 6 million km.

The second probe, the European Solar Orbiter ( I wrote about its start here ), will begin its journey to the center of the Solar System on February 7 this year. Although this probe will approach the Sun at a maximum of 42 million km, it will still take one of the most detailed photos of its surface. What's more, the Solar Orbiter as the first probe in history will look directly at the poles of the Sun, which so far nobody has seen.

Today, however, scientists have published the first images taken with the solar telescope Daniela K. Inouye (DKIST) located on the island of Maui in Hawaii. At the same time, they are the most detailed photos of the surface of the sun so far. The telescope itself was equipped with five different scientific instruments that allow you to take pictures of the sun, but also to study the intensity and orientation of its magnetic field. This means that, perhaps, the data collected will help us understand why the outer layer of the Sun's atmosphere is millions of degrees hotter than its surface.

The above animation consisting of photos taken at a wavelength of 705 nm over a period of 10 minutes, shows details with sizes of min. 30 km The photo shows turbulent, boiling gas covering the entire surface of the Sun. Each of the convection cells visible here, twice the size of Poland's surface, transports heat from the interior of the Sun to its surface in the process of convection. Hot plasma rises in the bright center of each cell, cools, and then falls into the dark gaps between the cells. It is in these dark gaps that we can see bright magnetic field markers. These bright spots are thought to release energy into the outer layers of the Sun's atmosphere. They can be responsible for the incredibly high temperature of the corona. The area in the picture is 19,000 x 10,700 km. The diameter of the Sun is 1,392,700 km.

In the meantime, Parker Solar Probe, accelerating to almost 700,000 km / h, will be able to take measurements of primary matter emitted from the surface of the Sun, thanks to which we will find out what solar wind and plasma forming the so-called crown at the very beginning of your journey through the Solar System. The European Solar Orbiter will take close-up photos of the Sun (this is not Parker Solar Probe). Thanks to these photos, heliophysicists will be able to observe the formation of solar flares and coronal mass ejections, which regulate the so-called space weather, which in turn has a real impact on communication systems and on electricity transmission networks on Earth. Currently, scientists are able to predict space weather phenomena up to 12 hours in advance. However, if they take a good look at the evolution of the magnetic field and the atmosphere of the sun, they can learn about the mechanisms that lead to these eruptions, which in turn would translate into better prognostic methods and earlier warnings.

It can therefore be said that DKIST, Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter are the dawn of a new era of research for the star closest to us. Over the next ten years, our knowledge of the Sun will expand significantly, and there will certainly be a lot of surprises along the way.



The most accurate photo of the Sun surface in history. This is the beginning of a new era of our star's research

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