Astronomers have finally captured the first images of the Sun’s chromosphere. The image was made possible thanks to the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope. The images that the National Science Foundation shared this week were taken back in June. Now, we can finally look at the part of the atmosphere resting just above the Sun’s surface, which was impossible before.
Where the James Webb space telescope is the most powerful telescope we’ve built to study the early universe, the Inouye Solar Telescope is the largest solar telescope ever built. This telescope rests on land that is both spiritually and culturally significant to the Hawaiian people and was designed to study our star and take images of the chromosphere and more.
The telescope, which captured these first images of the Sun’s chromosphere, is operated by the National Solar Observatory. Understanding the Sun has long been a goal for astronomers, and with technology like this, we’ll finally be able to dive deeper into what makes our star tick. But it doesn’t stop there.
These images are more than just data for scientists to puzzle over. They’re also absolutely beautiful, and being able to capture images of the Sun’s chromosphere is almost a miracle itself, especially when you consider the kind of precautions that need to be taken to look at the Sun with such powerful lenses. Understanding the sun better could also unlock new potential for space exploration.
For example, Earth is often hit with solar energy released during solar flares like the solar flare captured on video by astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy. Understanding the Sun better and even capturing these first images of the chromosphere could allow us to create technology that better detects those kinds of eruptions. That could help NASA, and other space agencies better prepare Earth for incoming solar flares.
The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope will unlock a new era for how we study the Sun. These first images of the chromosphere are just a start, similar to how Webb’s first images were just a taste of what that space telescope is capable of. As scientists observe the Sun more, we’ll hopefully unlock some of the mysteries of our star that have long baffled scientists.
Looking for more space content? James Webb’s image of Neptune showcases the planet’s rings and provides the clearest image of the planet we’ve captured since 1989.