This extreme close-up of a sunspot was taken on July 2 at the New
Jersey Institute of Technology’s Big Bear Solar Observatory, recently outfitted
with new optics that can correct for distortions in the atmosphere.
The 1.6-meter New Solar Telescope at Big Bear has a
resolution covering about 50 miles on the sun’s surface. Its adaptive optics feature
a deformable mirror, which is still being upgraded.
Sunspots are the locations of magnetic knots on the surface of the sun that
are related to solar storms, which can impact the Earth’s environment as well as the space environment where satellites and the space station fly.
“The photo shows the chromosphere and you can see the
sunspot in the upper left corner,” NJIT’s Philip Goode told Discovery News in
an email. “Around the bright sunspot edges, you’ll see black fibers that
look like strands of hair. The fibers are actually jets of energy being
ejected from the bright magnetic fields at the surface.”
A second photo, pictured below, was taken on July 1 and shows a more detailed view
of the sunspot.
The New Solar Telescope, developed in partnership with the National Science Foundation, the Office of Air Force Research and NASA, is a pathfinder for an even larger
ground-based observatory called the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, which
is expected to be built over the next decade.