Stunning new images of a huge dark spot on the sun look like a heart or a flaming flower.
The sunspot – where strong magnetic fields meet hot gases boiling up from within – is about 10,000 miles wide. That is wide enough for the Earth to have some room to move in.
The world’s largest solar observatory, the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on the Hawaiian island of Maui, captured the phenomenon in unprecedented detail on January 28. The National
Sunspots form in regions where the sun’s magnetic field is so powerful that it lowers atmospheric pressure, which in turn lowers the temperature. In this case, the dark spot is a cool 7,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The petal-like streaks emerging from the dark spot result from the interaction between the magnetic fields and hot gases bubbling up from beneath the surface.
This swirling action is visible in the video clip below. It records about a minute and a half of real-time solar activity, compressed to just four seconds. The frame is approximately 20,000 miles wide.
Inouye could help predict violent solar eruptions
The Inouye telescope made an impression when it published its first observations in January. Although the telescope was not yet ready, the first images of the sun were clearer than those from any previous telescope.
This powerful lens can help scientists unravel the mysteries of space weather and even predict solar events that could be dangerous to humans.
That’s because the whole
By using Inoye to study the dynamics of these events, scientists were able to predict them.
Inouye could also help solve a great mystery: why the Sun’s corona is up to 500 times hotter than its surface. Astronomers have struggled to understand this phenomenon since the 1940s.
Construction of the telescope is expected to be completed by June of this year, but the pandemic has pushed it back to 2021.
“The start of the telescope operations has been somewhat delayed by the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic,” David Boboltz, NSF program director for Inouye, said in the publication.
But he added that “this image is an early preview of the unprecedented possibilities the facility will bring to our understanding of the sun.”