There is a renewed interest in solar science as many space agencies around the world are studying the Sun to unearth the mysteries of its evolution. The US National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Inouye Solar Telescope is helping astronomers in this effort. The world’s largest telescope recently began its first science observations and NSF shared on Twitter what it saw: a striking new sunspot image. The Inouye had its eyes on the Sun as the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) ventured into a solar region known as the corona in a historic first.
The Inouye telescope, based in Hawaii, has been in the making for over 25 years and is now poised to revolutionise the way we understand the Sun and its impact on Earth.
The corona is of extreme interest to researchers as many yet-to-be-explained solar activities take place there, including why the flow of charged particles suddenly accelerates in the region. This activity is of particular interest because of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that can potentially hit Earth, damaging the power grids, communications networks, and satellites in near-Earth orbits.
The NSF, a public research institute aimed at advancing the knowledge of the physics of the Sun, has shared a high-resolution image of solar sunspots captured by the Inouye. “Thanks to powerful technology and sophisticated processing National Science Foundation’s Inouye Solar Telescope has given the world a striking new sunspot image. With details as small as 20km across, the Inouye had its eyes on the Sun as NASA Sun & Space PSP approached the corona,” NatlSolarObservatory (@NatSolarObs) tweeted.
A subsequent tweet added that the diameter of the dark part of the sunspot (called the umbra) is about the same diameter as Earth.
The diameter of the dark part of the sunspot (called the umbra) is about the same diameter of Earth!
— NatlSolarObservatory (@NatSolarObs) February 28, 2022
The Inouye telescope began its science operations in February this year.