The Sun is something that a lot of us take for granted. It’s just always there, chilling out in the sky, and providing the energy we need to survive. Over the years we’ve come up with more advanced ways of studying our nearest star, and we’ve learned a lot about its behavior and cycles as a result.
Now, the newly-minted powerful Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, operated by the US National Science Foundation, has captured the most stunning image of a sunspot that we earthlings have ever seen. Oh, and the sunspot looks vaguely like a heart, which is a shame because Valentine’s Day is still a few months away.
The image, which was captured by the telescope despite the fact that it’s not fully “finished” yet, is absolutely gorgeous. It’s easily the most detailed image of a sunspot ever captured, and might ultimately be the most impressive photo of the Sun itself ever snapped by mankind. The detail was made possible by the incredibly high-resolution optical system of the telescope, offering an up-close-and-personal glimpse at what’s happening on the surface of our star.
“The sunspot image achieves a spatial resolution about 2.5 times higher than ever previously achieved, showing magnetic structures as small as 20 kilometers on the surface of the sun,” Dr. Thomas Rimmele, lead author of a new paper in which the image was included, said in a statement.
For a sense of scale, you can imagine the Earth as being slightly smaller than the sunspot itself. If placed side by side, the entire Earth could “comfortably” fit inside of the sunspot’s borders, according to scientists.
Via the National Science Foundation:
The image reveals striking details of the sunspot’s structure as seen at the Sun’s surface. The streaky appearance of hot and cool gas spidering out from the darker center is the result of sculpting by a convergence of intense magnetic fields and hot gasses boiling up from below.
The concentration of magnetic fields in this dark region suppresses heat within the Sun from reaching the surface. Although the dark area of the sunspot is cooler than the surrounding area of the Sun, it is still extremely hot with a temperature of more than 7,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
The fact that the sunspot happens to be in the shape of a heart is really just dumb luck. Sunspots appear in all shapes and sizes and occur more often during periods of high activity on the star’s surface. These periods come and go in cycles that last roughly 11 years.
News Source: BGR