Look at these stunning new images taken by the world’s largest solar telescope

Stare right into the Sun without repercussions.
Chris Young
The Sun's chromosphere captured by Inoyue.
The Sun's chromosphere captured by Inoyue.


Astronomical observations allow us to see the Sun like never before, all without searing our eyes.

The U.S. National Science Foundation released new images from the Inouye Solar Telescope to mark a year since its inauguration. They are the first close-up images the telescope has captured of the Sun's chromosphere, a layer of the star's atmosphere located beneath the corona.

The mesmerizing images show the Sun's surface in incredible detail, captured at a resolution of 18 kilometers.

New images from the world's largest solar telescope

The images reveal the fiery plumes of the Sun's chromosphere in impressive detail. The bright hair-like plumes are fiery plasma flowing into the Sun's corona, the outermost part of its atmosphere. Incredibly, each of the images released by the National Science Foundation is about 82,500 kilometers (51,260 miles) wide, meaning they show less than ten percent of the Sun's total diameter.

The image below shows solar granules, which are the result of convection currents of plasma in the Sun's convective zone, directly below the photosphere, the lowest layer of the Sun's atmosphere. Each granule in the image is about 1,600 kilometers (994 miles) wide. The image also includes an overlaid picture of the Earth to scale to illustrate how enormous these granules are.

Look at these stunning new images taken by the world’s largest solar telescope
An image captured by Inoyue of granules on the Sun. An image of Earth is included for scale.


The Inouye Solar Telescope has allowed us to peer into the Sun with more detail than ever before. "NSF's Inouye Solar Telescope is the world's most powerful solar telescope that will forever change the way we explore and understand our sun," explained NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "Its insights will transform how our nation, and the planet, predict and prepare for events like solar storms."

Indeed, we are currently at the most active part of the Sun's regular 11-year cycle, and experts have raised concerns that solar storms could cause massive outages in our increasing technology and internet-reliant world. All the more reason for projects like Inouye, the ESA's Solar Orbiter, and NASA's Parker Solar Probe to shed new light on the center of our solar system.

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'A new era of Solar Physics'

The Inouye Solar Telescope was built on the Maui volcano, Haleakalā. According to Science Alert, construction plans were met with some resistance by local Native Hawaiian people, who see the location as a spiritually and culturally important landmark. The telescope was named after Daniel K. Inouye, a U.S. Senator for Hawaii.

Matt Mountain, president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), championed the abilities of Inoyue during the one-year commemoration of its inauguration by saying, "a new era of Solar Physics is beginning. With the world's largest solar telescope now in science operations, we are grateful for all who make this remarkable facility possible."

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