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Clearest and most detailed images yet of the sun revealed

31 January 2020

First images and videos released today by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope reveal unprecedented detail of the Sun’s surface.

New images taken with cameras developed by a UK consortium and funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) show a close-up view of the Sun’s surface including a pattern of turbulent “boiling” plasma that covers the entire Sun. The images also show cell-like structures - each about the size of Texas which are the signature of violent motions that transport heat from inside the Sun to its surface.

The UK consortium is led by Queen’s University Belfast and includes Andor Technology, Armagh Observatory, University of Glasgow, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, Northumbria University, University of Sheffield, St. Andrews University and University of Warwick.

NSF’s Inouye Solar Telescope 4-metre solar telescope sits near the summit of Haleakalā in Hawaii.

Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis of Queen’s University Belfast, who led the UK consortium, said: “The imaging produced by the Inouye Solar Telescope opens new horizons in solar physics. Its imaging capability allows us to study the physical processes at work in the Sun’s atmosphere at unprecedented levels of detail. We worked hard over the past few years with Belfast-based Andor Technology to develop the cameras that equip the Inouye Solar Telescope and it is highly rewarding to now see this fascinating imaging.”

NSF’s new ground-based Inouye Solar Telescope will work with space-based solar observation tools such as NASA’s Parker Solar Probe (currently in orbit around the Sun) and the European Space Agency/NASA Solar Orbiter (soon to be launched). The three solar observation initiatives will expand the frontiers of solar research and improve scientists’ ability to predict space weather.


Find out more about the work of NSF’s Inouye Solar Telescope here.

National Science Foundation: The United States’ National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency aimed at keeping the United States at the leading edge of discovery in areas from astronomy to geology to zoology.

Last updated: 31 January 2020


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