Spectacular details on the Sun’s surface

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) plays an important role in my novel “Silent Sun.” When I wrote the book, the solar telescope was still under construction. It’s still not completely finished, but it’s already taken its first snapshots of its only object of observation, our Sun. The images are absolutely stunning, showing the Sun’s surface at a level of detail never seen before.

Close-up of the image above, edge length 8,200 km x 8,200 km. (image: NSO/AURA/NSF, CC-BY 4.0)
In this image taken at a wavelength of 789 nm, structures as small as 30 km (18 miles) can be seen for the first time. The image shows a pattern of turbulent, “boiling” gas covering the entire Sun. The cell-like features are each about the size of Texas and indicate violent flows transporting heat from the inside of the Sun to its surface. Hot plasma rises in the bright centers of cells, cools off, and then sinks back into the interior in dark channels. In these dark channels, small, bright spots can also be seen, marking magnetic fields (“small” is relative here, because they are each about as large as New York City). From here, energy flows into the outer layers of the solar atmosphere, the corona, which is heated up to a million. The image boundaries represent about 36,500 km x 36,500 km. (image: NSO/AURA/NSF, CC-BY 4.0)
The scale of the Sun (background image: NSO Integrated Synoptic Program/GONG)

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