It’s a real shame that we can’t stare directly at the sun—at least, not without doing some serious and potentially permanent damage to our eyes. If we were able to get past our star’s intense brightness, we’d be able to see an incredible look at its hellish and chaotic surface. Luckily, we don’t need to risk blindness to gaze at the awesome power of the sun using solar telescopes.
Researchers at the National Science Foundation recently released eight new pictures of the sun captured by the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, the world’s most powerful ground-based solar telescope, operated by the Haleakala Observatory on the Hawaiian island of Maui. The images reveal stunning sunspots with amazing detail.
Take a look for yourself:
For more images, check out the National Science Foundation's page on the project.
The pics were captured by the Visible-Broadband Imager on the Inouye telescope. This tool allows it to record images at incredibly high resolutions at very precise wavelengths—allowing it to get past the intense brightness of the sun and just look at the good stuff. As such, you can see the hot, swirling plasma along with the darker, tendril-like magnetic field of the sun’s chromosphere.
The tool was specifically trained on the so-called “quiet” regions of the sun known as sunspots. These are darker and cooler areas that are often the size of planet Earth—though they’re miniscule relative to the rest of the star. Of course, more complex sunspots can be home to solar flares and solar storms, which can wreak havoc here on terra firma when it interferes with our electrical systems.
These images are a part of a massive amount of data collected during the first cycle of the Operations Commissioning Phase Proposal Call, an initiative by the National Science Foundation soliciting proposal requests to use the Inouye telescope. All of the images and the data gathered in the first cycle was captured in 2022.
So that just means that there’s plenty more stunning pics of the sun waiting to be had in the future. Just remember that, as pretty and awesome as they undoubtedly are, leave the sun staring to the professionals if you want to be able to keep reading articles on the internet.