Eye of the Sun: Telescope captures most detailed image ever of a sunspot that is bigger than Earth

Last updated at 5:08 PM on 25th August 2010

Like the centre of a flower or a mysterious eye, this is the most detailed image of a sunspot ever captured using visible light.

The stunning picture was taken using the Big Bear Telescope in California and is the best photo of a huge sunspot  that is around 8,000 miles in diameter.

At the centre of the sunspot the temperature is around 3,600C, while the surrounding regions are much hotter, more than 5,800C.

The irregular shapes that surround the sunspot are known as granulation and are made of hot gas rising from inside the Sun. Each one is around 1000km in size.

Researchers at Big Bear Solar Observatory have captured this image of a sunspot that is now the most detailed ever captured in visible light

Researchers at Big Bear Solar Observatory have captured this image of a sunspot that is now the most detailed ever captured in visible light. Each of the irregular-sized shapes around the sunspot itself are around 1000km across. The diameter of Earth is around 12,000km, meaning the sunspot is probably much larger than our own planet

The telescope that took the picture is know as the New Solar Telescope which uses adaptive optics, parts that change to adapt to disturbances in the atmosphere and correct distortions in the signals.

Scientists believe magnetic structures, like sunspots hold an important key to understanding space weather. Space weather, which originates in the Sun, can have dire consequences on Earth’s climate and environment.

A bad storm can disrupt power grids and communication, destroy satellites and even expose airline pilots, crew and passengers to radiation.

  • Sunspots are actually regions where powerful magnetic fields emanate from the Sun.
  • These magnetic fields can get wound up so tightly that they rise up from inside the Sun, and the sunspots mark the points where this happens.
  • They are usually a different temperature – either hotter or colder – than the rest of the Sun’s surface and usually last a few days before disappearing.

‘This photo of a sunspot is now the most detailed ever obtained in visible light,’ according to astronomy magazine Ciel et l’Espace.

Professor Philip R. Goodewill at the New Jersey Institute of Technology said that the images were achieved with the 1.6 m clear aperture, off-axis New Solar Telescope (NST) at BBSO.

The telescope has a resolution covering about 50 miles on the Sun’s surface.

The Big Bear Observatory is located in a clear mountain lake which is known for its atmospheric stability.

The images were taken by the NST with atmospheric distortion corrected by its 97 actuator deformable mirror.

By the summer of 2011, in collaboration with the National Solar Observatory, BBSO will have upgraded the current adaptive optics system to one utilizing a 349 actuator deformable mirror.

The NST will be the pathfinder for an even larger ground-based telescope, the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST), to be built over the next decade.

The new telescope now feeds a high-order adaptive optics system, which in turn feeds the next generation of technologies for measuring magnetic fields and dynamic events using visible and infrared light.

A parallel computer system for real-time image enhancement highlights it.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1305960/Most-detailed-image-sunspot-caught-camera.html#ixzz0xe2cTbta