It was certainly exciting several months for telescopes. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has just released new stellar images of the sun’s face, courtesy of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) in Hawaii. The images show the chromosphere, the middle layer of the sun’s atmosphere that can reach over 13,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The pictures are distantly reminiscent of bright yellow flowers Painting by Vincent Van Gogh “Sunflowers”.
Hairs of fiery plasma flow into the corona, the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, from a pattern of pores. The solar chromosphere is below the crown, which is normally invisible and historically only visible during a total solar eclipse. But new technologies like this telescope have changed that.
Drops with bubbles are called granules and are about 994 miles wide. Each of these portraits shows a region about 51,260 miles wide, which is only a small percentage of the Sun’s total diameter.
The images were taken on June 3 and released this week. Called by name the late Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Inouye, DKIST is currently the largest solar telescope in the world. The 13′ wide telescope stands on top of a mountain and a volcano Haleakala (or “House of the Sun”) on the island of Maui. It focuses on understanding the explosive behavior of the sun and observing its magnetic fields. It will also help scientists predict and prepare for solar storms, so-called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). CME bursts send hot plasma from the solar corona to Earth and disrupt electricity and internet connections. This is the part NSF National Solar Observatory.
“With the world’s largest solar telescope currently in operation for science, we are grateful to everyone who makes this remarkable facility possible,” said Matt Mountain, president of AURA. in a press release. “In particular, we thank the people of Hawaii for the privilege of working from this remarkable location, the National Science Foundation and the US Congress for their continued support, and our Inouye Solar Telescope team, many of whom have given tirelessly over a decade of this transformative project. A new era of solar physics begins!’
[Related: What happens when the sun burns out?]
This telescope is not without controversy because it is located in a sacred place of Native Hawaiians. Mountain peaks like this count wao akua, (kingdom of the gods), places where both deities and demigods existed on Earth. They are still sacred places of reverence visited by many native Hawaiians to honor ancestors and observe other spiritual traditions.
In 2017 interview with Science, Kaleikoa Kaeo, a professor of Hawaiian language at the University of Hawaii’s Maui College in Kahului and a leader of opposition to the telescope, said, “As humans, we have no control over some of our most sacred sites. They say Hawaiian culture is against science. I’m like, “No, it’s Hawaiian culture against white supremacy.”
After the protests in 2015 year and 2017 yearrepresentatives of the telescope began to meet with working groups of native Hawaiians who have since gained more authority over the site. The peak also remains open to Native Hawaiians and a sun-focused high school curricula that highlight Hawaii’s long history of astronomy study was developed.