Insight & Analysis

Fancy snacking on the sun?

Published: Feb 2020

In the past week the National Science Foundation has released photos and a video of the surface of the sun – the highest resolution images yet. Naturally, the public had some… interesting observations.

Close up of the sun with solar flares

Many comments were made about wanting to eat the surface of the sun after the National Science Foundation (NSF) posted the highest resolution images ever taken of it.

Hawaii’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope helped produce the images, and NSF Director, France Córdova said in a statement: “NSF’s Inouye Solar Telescope will be able to map the magnetic fields within the sun’s corona, where solar eruptions occur that can impact life on Earth. This telescope will improve our understanding of what drives space weather and ultimately help forecasters better predict solar storms.”

According to the NSF, space weather can have a huge impact on systems on Earth. “Magnetic eruptions on the sun can impact air travel, disrupt satellite communications and bring down power grids, causing long-lasting blackouts and disabling technologies such as GPS,” it explains.

In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that during 2017’s Hurricane Irma, a simultaneous space weather event brought down radio communications used by first responders, aviation and maritime channels for eight hours on the day the hurricane made landfall.

The magnetic disruptions are caused by the sun’s plasma constantly twisting and tangling solar magnetic fields, which then leads to solar storms. A video posted by Scientific American showed this activity and commentators were quick to note the comparisons to caramel popcorn or honeycomb.

These are the first images from the telescope, and according to the National Solar Observatory, this is just the beginning.

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