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The Daniel K. Solar Telescope Giant bubbles the size of Spain bubble in the turbulent plasma that covers our star.
The first images from the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, held by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) in Hawaii, are the highest resolution ever obtained. Its unprecedented details of the surface of our star will enable a new era of solar science and a leap forward in understanding the sun and its impacts on our planet.
The photographs show a pattern of "boiling" plasma, with cell-like structures the size of Spain, which are the signature of violent movements that transport heat from the interior of the Sun to its surface. That hot solar plasma rises in the bright centers of cells, cools, and then sinks in dark pathways in a process known as convection.
An approach to space weather
According to NSF, "the Sun is a 'gigantic nuclear reactor' that burns about five million tons of hydrogen fuel every second." All that energy radiates into space and makes life on Earth possible. This solar activity, known as space weather, can affect systems on Earth.
In the 1950s, scientists discovered that there is a solar wind that blows from this great star to the edges of the solar system and that we live within its atmosphere. The powerful magnetic flares that sometimes occur on our star can affect air travel, disrupt satellite communications and bring down power grids, causing blackouts and disabling GPS.
"Today we can predict whether it will rain almost anywhere in the world with great precision, but space weather is not there yet," explains Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (USA). "We need to grasp the underlying physics behind space weather and this begins under the Sun, which is what the solar telescope will study for decades to come," he adds.
In this context, understanding the characteristics of the Sun's magnetic fields is essential. Observations from the Inouy solar telescope, which can image regions up to 38,000 km wide, will allow them to be measured and characterized in more detail, determining the causes of potentially harmful solar activity.