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 C√≥rdova, NSF director.

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

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

China readying World’s Largest radio telescope to explore space

The last panel of China's world largest radio telescope named "FAST", is installed in Pingtang county

BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Sunday hoisted the final piece into position on what will be the world’s largest radio telescope, which it will use to explore space and help in the hunt for extraterrestrial life, state media said.

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, is the size of 30 football fields and has been hewed out of a mountain in the poor southwestern province of Guizhou.

Scientists will now start debugging and trials of the telescope, Zheng Xiaonian, deputy head of the National Astronomical Observation under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which built the telescope, told the official Xinhua news agency.

“The project has the potential to search for more strange objects to better understand the origin of the universe and boost the global hunt for extraterrestrial life,” the report paraphrased Zheng as saying.

The 1.2-billion yuan ($180 million) radio telescope would be a global leader for the next one to two decades, Zheng added.

The telescope, which has taken about five years to build, is expected to begin operations in September.

Advancing China’s space program is a priority for Beijing, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power.

China’s ambitions include putting a man on the moon by 2036 and building a space station, work on which has already begun.

China insists its program is for peaceful purposes, but the U.S. Defense Department has highlighted China’s increasing space capabilities, saying it is pursuing activities aimed to prevent adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)