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Saturday, February 22, 2020

‘First light’ observations of Sun to revolutionise understanding, say scientists

In the image of the Sun from DKIST, scientists said very small magnetic field structures can be seen bundled together within the dark regions between bright convection cells.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Published: January 31, 2020 4:39:24 am
picture of sun, sun image, nsf, solar telescope, Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope The Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope has produced the highest resolution image of the sun’s surface ever taken. (Image: NSO/AURA/NSF)

Scientists are enthusiastic about the ‘first light’ observations of the Sun made by the Daniel K Inoue Solar Telescope (DKIST) — the largest solar telescope in the world. Located at Hawaii, the images of the Sun were released recently by the telescope and show the Sun’s surface in never before seen details.

“These unprecedented observations are poised to revolutionise understanding of these physical processes in the Sun,” Dr Dibyendu Nandi, professor and principal investigator at Centre of Excellence in Space Sciences, India, IISER- Kolkata told The Indian Express.

“We see turbulent convective granules painting an intricate pattern on the Sun’s surface. Just like water in a teapot or the Earth’s atmosphere, the Sun’s outer layers constantly churn and boil due to convection. But unlike the Earth’s atmosphere, the Sun is made of completely ionised matter called plasma. The up and down motions of plasma interact with the Sun’s magnetic fields and this interplay plays an important role in governing the Sun’s activity,” Dr Nandi explained.

In the image of the Sun from DKIST, scientists said very small magnetic field structures can be seen bundled together within the dark regions between bright convection cells. “For the first time, we are looking at this process of magnetoconvection in such detail. This process is at the heart of astrophysical dynamos, which generate magnetic fields in the Sun and stars. The magnetic field in turn creates the sunspot cycle, heats the Sun’s outer layers known as the Corona and sometimes generates solar storms that impact satellite operations ,” said Dr Nandi.

India is planning its own National Large Solar Telescope to be located at a site near Pangong Lake, Ladakh. This telescope, although half the size of the American telescope, would provide crucial high-resolution observations of the Sun when the DKIST, located in Hawaii, is at the night side away from the Sun, said Dr Nandi. He said he was hopeful that the Indian National Large Solar Telescope will complement the great Sun-observing telescopes around the world.

“Along with India’s Aditya-L1 space mission to observe the Sun, which is to be launched within a year, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission and European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter mission, this decade is going to be a golden era in explorations of our nearest star,” said Nandi.

Asia Pacific Solar Physics meet at IUCAA

The Pune-based Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics will host the Asia Pacific Solar Physics meet from February 3 to February 7.

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