Even if you’re not an astronomy buff, you would know that the sun’s atmosphere’s middle layer, known as the chromosphere, is usually invisible. It can only be seen during a total solar eclipse when it creates a red ring around the blacked-out sun.
But US’ National Science Foundation (NSF) has managed to capture images of the chromosphere with the help of the world’s most powerful telescope The Inouye Solar Telescope.
The Inouye Telescope has allowed astronomers to view the face of the sun in exquisite detail as they have never been able to before.
The images captured by the telescope reveal the chromosphere to look like a fluffy shag rug, with the jets of plasma on the surface resembling hair-like structures.
In the photo, these jets of plasma can be seen flowing into the corona from honeycomb-like patterned pores.
These pores are called granules and each one is about 1,600 km wide. The portraits captured by the telescope are about 82,500 km wide, and this is still just a small percentage of the sun’s total diameter.
To put the scale into perspective, astronomers placed Earth on the captured image to give us an idea of the sheer enormity of these images.
The telescope has been 25 years in the making and now stands proud on the Maui volcano Haleakalā in Hawaii. The powerful telescope can see features within the chromosphere that are as small as the island of Manhattan (small for the sun, at least!).
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, the images and data produced by Inouye Solar Telescope will write the next chapters of solar physics research,” reads the press release by the NSF, which elaborates on the insights that the telescope can provide to astronomers for years to come, “NSF’s Inouye Solar Telescope is the world’s most powerful solar telescope that will forever change the way we explore and understand our sun,” said NSF Director, Sethuraman Panchanathan, in the press release, “Its insights will transform how our nation, and the planet, predict and prepare for events like solar storms.”
Here’s hoping to see more of the exquisite star through the telescope in the future!