The Daniel K. Inouye Ground-based solar telescope has just acquired its first images of the Sun. They are simply the most accurate and finest of the Sun’s surface ever obtained. This unprecedented ability to observe the Sun promises a dramatic leap in the knowledge of the phenomena at the origin of its activity that influences space meteorology.
As the European Space Agency and NASA prepare to launch the Solar Orbiter spacecraft in a few days and the American Parker Solar Probe has approached only 19 million kilometers from the Sun, a solar-terrestrial telescope is making The news. Indeed, the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST for Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope), scheduled for commissioning this summer, has acquired its first images and they are the most accurate ever recorded from the surface of the Sun. The smallest details that can be discerned are only 30 kilometers in size! What, on the scale of the Sun, which is nearly 1.4 million kilometers in diameter, is microscopic.
Convection cells in perpetual motion
What we see are the convection cells that make up the surface of the Sun. They measure more or less 1,000 kilometers in diameter and are constantly evolving. They deform, appear and disappear as the movements occur beneath the Sun’s surface, which leads the hottest gas to rise from the inside of the star to the surface.
Built on Haleakala Mountain on Hawaii’s Maui Island, DKIST is the world’s largest solar telescope capable of acquiring ultra-detailed images of the Sun’s surface, with a resolution twice as high as other observatories. solar power in service. Until now, solar telescopes had mirrors up to 1.50 meters in diameter. This off-axis telescope is equipped with an active primary mirror 4.2 meters in diameter, with thermal control and adaptive optics. DKIST is also the most complex and technical solar telescope currently in use.
This telescope was designed to better understand the role of the Sun, mainly its magnetic field, in space meteorology.