The Most Detailed Picture of the Sun’s Surface Ever Taken

A new solar telescope in Hawaii has taken its first photo and movie of the Sun. The shots are the highest resolution views of our star yet, showing details on the Sun’s surface as small as about 18 miles in size

The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is located on the Haleakala volcano on the island of Maui. A primary mirror that’s 4 meters (about 13 feet) wide makes this the biggest solar telescope on Earth, and it will be able to resolve smaller details on the Sun than ever before. With the telescope’s sophisticated instruments and high resolution, scientists hope to better understand remaining mysteries about our nearest star.

The grainy pattern in the telescope’s “first light” image is the mark of plasma cells on the Sun’s surface. Hot plasma from within the Sun rises to the surface, cools and sinks back down in a process called convection, like bubbling water in a boiling pot.

The hotter parts where new plasma has just risen up from below appear bright in the photo, while the places where cooler plasma sinks back down appear dark. The grains in this first image from the telescope are roughly the size of Texas.

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