We are graced with the sun every day. However, there are many mysteries to uncover. While childhood warnings kept us from looking directly at the sun, recent images from the National Science Foundation’s Inouye Solar Telescope kick off a new journey to understanding our solar disk.
While the sun provides us with life-giving energy, it is also responsible for the lives we experience. From solar flares to magnetic eruptions, activity in the center of our solar system can heavily affect activity here on Earth.
The cellular-like pattern seen in the images represent areas where heat is drawn out from inside the sun. Comparable to a volcano’s eruption, the centers show where plasma is rising while the dark outlines are where it is sinking back into the sun.
The Golden Age of Solar Science Has Just Begun
Images were taken on December 10, 2019, and are just being shared with the public. Within the next six months, scientists hope to understand the sun’s magnetic fields and predict solar eruptions.
“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 Inouye Solar Telescope.
“Our predictions lag behind terrestrial weather by 50 years, if not more. What we need is to grasp the underlying physics behind space weather, and this starts at the Sun, which is what the Inouye Solar Telescope will study over the next decades.”
“This image is just the beginning,” said David Boboltz, program director in NSF’s division of astronomical sciences and who oversees the facility’s construction and operations. The Inouye Solar Telescope will collect more information about our sun during the first 5 years of its lifetime than all the solar data gathered since Galileo first pointed a telescope at the sun in 1612.”
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