The world’s largest solar telescope, Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) captured its first image of the sun. This image also happens to be the highest resolution image of the sun’s surface captured by mankind so far. Of course, that’s an incredible feat and the world is rejoicing already! Here are some more details on how it happened, and what it means for the future. By Kumar Shree
Once more elements of the DKIST telescope are assembled together on the Hawaiian island of Maui, the telescope is expected to deliver better results. Which means, we will get better images of the sun’s surface in the future. These images are vital for studying space weather (sun’s activity), which in turn affects natural phenomena of the Earth and other planets. Moreover, the dense network of electromagnetic radiations around the sun interferes with satellites and air travel as well. It is this sun’s enigma — and a bunch of other questions — that have our scientists are trying to decode. This high resolution image of the sun is our first step in that direction.
Talking about the feat during a news conference, Inouye director Thomas Rimmele said, “These are the highest-resolution images and movies of the solar surface ever taken. Till now, we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg.”
These images have revealed that the sun’s surface is a network of turbulent plasma arranged in a cell-like structure. Many have drawn its resemblance to that of a popping pot of caramelised popcorn.
Although people are drawing some of the simplest references available to them, in reality the sun’s surface is anything but simple. The surface keeps releasing large chunks of plasma and coronal mass ejections, also known as solar flares. When these releases meet the earth’s magnetic field , they cause auroras. The releases can also mess with Earth’s satellites and power grids, causing an absolute shutdown and blackout.