Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope of the US National Science Foundation recently published the first ever photo of a sunspot, taken on January 28, 2020. The photo shows how the telescope’s advanced optics and four-meter main mirror will give scientists the best view of the Sun from Earth in the next solar cycle .
The image reveals striking details of the sunspot structure as seen on the sun’s surface. The streaky appearance of hot and cool gas exuding from the darker center is the result of carving from the convergence of intense magnetic fields and hot gases boiling from below.
Dr. Thomas Rimmele, associate director at NSF’s National Solar Observatory (NSO), said: “The sunspot image achieves spatial resolution about 2.5 times higher than ever before, showing magnetic structures as small as 20 kilometers on the surface of the sun.”
About 10,000 miles in diameter, this sunspot image is only a tiny fraction of the sun. It only seems tiny, but the fact is that our Earth can easily fit into this sunspot.
The concentration of the magnetic fields in this dark region dampens the sun’s heat from reaching the surface. Despite the fact that the dark area of the sunspot is cooler than the surrounding area of the Sun, it is still very hot, with a temperature of over 7,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dr. Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), the governing body of NSO and Inouye Solar Telescope, said: “With the start of this solar cycle, we are also entering the age of the Inouye Solar Telescope. We can now point the world’s most advanced solar telescope at the sun to capture and share extremely detailed images and to complement our scientific insight into solar activity. “
- Thomas R. Rimmele et al., The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope – Observatory Overview, Solar Physics (2020). DOI: 10.1007 / s11207-020-01736-7