Scientists have made the most detailed images of the sun ever. They come from a brand new Inouye solar telescope in Hawaii and show how the sun consists of popping corn kernels.
Project director Thomas Rimmele is delighted with the images made by the 344 million euro telescope of the National Solar Observatory. “These are the most detailed images ever taken of the sun’s surface!” Exults Rimmele in The Guardian.
But what do we actually see?
The bubbling ‘golden’ cell-like structures are rising parts of plasma about 6,000 degrees Celsius warm. One such ‘cube’ is about the size of a country and grows to the surface, explodes as it were, and releases its heat, only to ‘cool down’ disappear into the sun and make room for other ascending plasma.
‘At first, it looked like we were looking at a definite point, at a single structure. But now we see them falling apart into much smaller structures, explains Rimmele.
The solar telescope stands at the top of Hawaii’s three-kilometer-high Haleakala volcano, and the mirror has a diameter of four meters, the largest in the world. Because this mirror can get extremely hot, the telescope stands in an ice pool so that the device cannot overheat. Twelve kilometers of water pipes have been laid to supplement the ice pool.
With the new images, scientists can better research the natural and chemical functions of the sun and thus better predict the space weather. And that’s not all, says Rimmele: With the new instruments that will be brought into use in the next six months, we can measure the magnetic fields around the sun’s surface.