New telescope reveals sun’s surface in closest detail yet

New telescope reveals sun’s surface in closest detail yet
(Reuters) – Images from a powerful new telescope installed on top of a volcano in Hawaii show the surface of the sun in the closest detail yet, revealing features as small as 30km (18 miles) across.

They were captured by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, which sits at around 10,000 feet (3,000 metres) above sea level near the summit of Haleakala volcano in Maui, Hawaii.

The telescope, which features the world’s largest solar 4-meter (13 feet) mirror, could enable a greater understanding of the sun and its impact on our planet, according to the National Solar Observatory, a public research institute headquartered in Boulder, Colorado.

A pattern of turbulent, “boiling” gas is shown covering the sun, which is some 93 million miles from Earth.

An image shows the Sun’s surface at the highest resolution ever taken, shot by the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), the world’s largest solar telescope, on the island of Maui, Hawaii, U.S., January 29, 2020, in this image obtained January 30, 2020. NSO/NSF/AURA/Handout via

Inside visible cell-like structures, each around the size of the U.S. state of Texas, hot plasma can be seen rising before cooling off and sinking below the surface in dark lanes, as part of a process called convection.

Markers of magnetic fields are also visible with new clarity, the NSO said.

Studying the sun’s activity, or “space weather”, can help scientists predict problems on Earth. Magnetic eruptions on the sun can disrupt satellites, disable GPS, impact air travel, bring down power grids and cause blackouts.

“This telescope will improve our understanding of what drives space weather and ultimately help forecasters better predict solar storms,” said France Córdova, NSF director.

(This story refiles to fix typographical error in paragraph 4)

(Reporting by George Sargent; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

In first, scientists detect gravitational waves and light from star collision

An artist’s illustration of two merging neutron stars. The rippling space-time grid represents gravitational waves that travel out from the collision, while the narrow beams show the bursts of gamma rays that are shot out just seconds after the gravitational waves.

By Scott Malone

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) – Scientists in the United States and Europe have for the first time detected gravitational waves, the ripples in space and time predicted by Albert Einstein, at the same time as light from the same cosmic event, according to research published on Monday.

The waves, caused by the collision of two neutron stars some 130 million years ago, were first detected in August in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatories, known as LIGO, in Washington state and Louisiana as well as at a third detector, named Virgo in Italy.

Two seconds later, observatories on earth and in space detected a burst of light in the form of gamma rays from the same path of the southern sky, which analysis showed likely to be from the same source.

Less than two years have passed since scientists working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology first detected gravitational waves coming off two black holes.

The gravitational waves had been predicted by Einstein in 1916, as an outgrowth of his groundbreaking general theory of relativity, which depicted gravity as a distortion of space and time triggered by the presence of matter.

Three U.S. scientists who made that discovery were awarded the Nobel prize in physics earlier this month.

The findings published on Monday help confirm Einstein’s theory, said the researchers, whose work was published in Physical Review Letters.

“From informing detailed models of the inner workings of neutron stars and the emissions they produce, to more fundamental physics such as general relativity, this event is just so rich,” said MIT senior research scientist David Shoemaker. “It is a gift that will keep on giving.”

The LIGO instruments work in unison and use lasers to detect remarkably small vibrations from gravitational waves as they pass through the earth.

Previously, scientists could only study space by observing electromagnetic waves such as radio waves, visible light, infrared light, X-rays and gamma rays. Those waves encounter interference as they travel across the universe, but gravitational waves do not, meaning they offer a wealth of additional information.

The colliding neutron stars were smaller than the black holes that LIGO previously detected.

Black holes are so dense that not even photons of light can escape their gravity. Neutron stars are relatively small, about the size of a city, the compact remains of a larger star that died.

The National Science Foundation, an independent agency of the U.S. government, provided about $1.1 billion in funding for the LIGO research over 40 years.


(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Peter Cooney)