The future is looking bright for solar physicists.
On Wednesday, scientists released the highest resolution images and videos ever taken of the sun's surface. The images, produced by the National Science Foundation's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on the summit of Haleakala, Maui, in Hawaii, will help scientists learn more about activity on the sun — a.k.a. space weather — per a press release from the National Solar Observatory.
Space weather can affect life on Earth by interfering with satellites and power grids. When Hurricane Irma made landfall in 2017, radio communications used by first responders were down for eight hours due to unrelated space weather coinciding with the storm, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"This telescope will improve our understanding of what drives space weather and ultimately help forecasters better predict solar storms," said National Science Foundation Director France Córdova. With this information, governments can better prepare for space weather — potentially 48 hours in advance, rather than the current 48 minute standard, per the press release.
The circular structures in the images and videos are each roughly the size of Texas, and the movement is the hot plasma that covers the sun rising then falling as it cools off.
David Boboltz, program director in NSF's division of astronomical sciences, said in the press release the telescope "will collect more information about our sun during the first five years of its lifetime than all the solar data gathered since Galileo first pointed a telescope at the sun in 1612." Taylor Watson