Scientists have released detailed images of the chromosphere, a layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, located between the photosphere and the solar corona. The recordings were made by the world’s most powerful solar telescope, the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), located in Hawaii.

Generally, the chromosphere is a difficult structure to see, because the light emitted by the photosphere forms a barrier that prevents its clear visualization. The region is only visible during a total solar eclipse, when light from the photosphere is blocked by the Moon.

Fortunately, the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, which aims to revolutionize solar physics, including scientists’ understanding of the Sun’s magnetic field, was able to identify and distinguish this structure.

In addition to the performance of the telescope, the study of space weather, which includes outbursts from the Sun and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), is also very important to support future discoveries about this star. Space weather is a priority right now as the 11-year solar cycle is in full swing.

In a statement, National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said, “NSF’s Inouye Solar Telescope is the world’s most powerful solar telescope that will forever change the way we explore and understand our planet. Sun. He completed his assertion by saying that “his insights will transform the way our nation and our planet predict and prepare for events such as solar storms.” It should be noted that the NSF is responsible for funding DKIST.

About the Inouye Solar Telescope

Located 3,000 meters above sea level and surrounded by the ocean, the telescope is in a prime location, as it remains in contact with daylight for long hours, under clear skies with minimal interference from the atmosphere. terrestrial, which allows own observations. corona and chromosphere of the Sun.

DKIST uses a 4 meter wide mirror, which helps the telescope collect more sunlight, and is considered the largest active solar survey mirror. The result of this set is the clearest, highest resolution images ever collected of this star.

A gigantic solar flare has just emerged on the other side of the Sun

On September 5, astronomers surprised the Sun in full coronal mass ejection (CME). An observation which, in normal times, is not unusual, knowing that these events multiply as the star approaches its peak of activity, expected in 2025. But this event was still remarkable for many reasons, and researchers are already rubbing their hands.

EMCs are bubbles of plasma that are catapulted at high speed by solar flares. If they are directed towards the Earth, they can have very concrete consequences which depend directly on their intensity.

The weakest will have no measurable consequences. The most powerful ones, on the other hand, could cause unprecedented chaos on Earth by instantly destroying a large part of the systems that work with electricity.

And it just so happens that this CME was absolutely gigantic. “I can safely say that the September 6 event was one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) particle storm that we have observed since the launch of the Solar Orbiter in 2020”, explains George Ho, specialist in heliophysics interviewed by SpaceWeather.

It was so intense that it emerged in a so-called “full halo” form. CMEs generally travel in a specific direction. But in this case, the astronomers were able to observe that in addition to the main CME, the jolt of the Sun also ejected a wave of superheated gas all around the star.

Solar Orbiter was in the right place at the right time

Fortunately for us, the Earth was not in the line of fire; the main ejection is even gone on the other side of the sun, precisely opposite our planet. Good news for the electricity network… but also for the researchers who were able to benefit from a happy combination of circumstances.

Indeed, if the Blue Planet escaped this CME, this is not the case of Venus; the hottest planet in the solar system was just passing by and was hit head-on. However, it turns out that the Solar Orbiter was also stopping in the region at this precise moment; it had just completed an orbital maneuver near Venus to adjust its trajectory relative to the Sun.

This probe dedicated to the exploration of our star, operated jointly by ESA and NASA, was therefore in the front row; she was able to observe this gigantic CME on the other side of our star, which is by definition extremely difficult.

A taste of the future whims of the Sun

NASA heliophysicist Dr. Alex Young shared the stunning images collected by the probe. We see a gigantic solar prominence, this structure in the form of a loop made up of plasma channeled by intense disturbances of the magnetic field. It is difficult to appreciate the incredible size on these images; these pretty swirls measure several thousand kilometers and are much larger than our planet itself.

For the researchers, it was in any case a real boon. Thanks to the presence of the Solar Orbiter, they were able to collect a large amount of data which already promises to advance knowledge of these eminently complex phenomena. “It’s not an event like the others,” rejoices George Ho. “Many scientific papers will study this over the years to come,” he assures us.

And that’s probably just the beginning; remember that the Sun will reach the peak of its 11-year activity cycle in 2025. There is therefore a good chance that he will throw more and more spectacular anger by then. Heliophysicists can therefore break out the popcorn… but we will also have to knock on wood so that our star does not send us a huge CME, with all the catastrophic consequences that would entail.

The world’s most powerful solar telescope captures a close-up of the sun’s chromosphere

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this picture is worth a whole saga. Researchers now have the first-ever detailed image of the Sun’s chromosphere in their hands. The credit goes to the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), the most powerful solar telescope in the world.

The newly released image encompassed an 82,000 kilometer wide area of ​​the layer just above the Sun’s atmosphere. Capturing the chromosphere is a feat in itself because, like the Sun’s atmosphere, also known as the corona, the chromosphere is also difficult to see. Indeed, the light from the Sun’s photosphere generally surpasses the light emanating from the chromosphere.

The image captured by DKIST will help researchers better understand different aspects of the star at the center of our solar system that also affect planet Earth. It will stand as an amazing breakthrough in the field of solar physics.

Speaking about the insights the DKIST image provides, National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement, “NSF’s Inouye Solar Telescope is the world’s most powerful solar telescope that will forever change the how we explore and understand our sun. His knowledge will transform the way our nation and the planet predict and prepare for events such as solar storms.

The image is the result of the efforts of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), which, under the auspices of the NSF, used DKIST to capture the first image of the Sun’s chromosphere. “With the world’s largest solar telescope currently in scientific operation, we are grateful to everyone who makes this remarkable facility possible,” said AURA President Matt Mountain.

With the image now under close scrutiny, researchers will focus primarily on space weather, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections that significantly affect various elements on Earth. The image came at an opportune time when the Sun’s eleven-year solar cycle is gaining momentum and rising.