High-resolution images of the sun captured by a European telescope revealed an alarming closer look at the surface of our solar system’s star.
The images were taken by GREGOR, a solar telescope located at the TED Observatory in Tenerife, Spain, and operated by German scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics.
They provide a detailed look at the twisting composition of the solar plasma, as well as sunspots – regions where the Sun’s magnetic field is unusually high and causes a rise in pressure that causes the temperature to drop and darken the surrounding atmosphere.
The GREGOR telescope went into operation in 2012 and underwent a major redesign this year that was temporarily discontinued due to the coronavirus pandemic. It now provides a width of detail as small as 50 kilometers – or 31 miles – which is very small for the Sun’s diameter of 1.4 million kilometers, or about 870,000 miles.
“This is as if someone saw a needle on a perfectly sharp soccer field from a distance of one kilometer,” according to a press release announcing the photos.
“This was a very exciting project but also very challenging,” said Lucia Clint, who led the GREGOR renovation, in a statement. “In just one year, we completely redesigned optics, mechanics and electronics to achieve the best possible image quality.”
Similar photos of the sun’s surface taken by Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawaii were posted in January, sparking social media reactions from commentators who said the star’s hot plasma resembled popcorn kernels.
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