Stunning new sun images show our star's popcorn-like magnetic field structure

Need a little more sun in your life?

German scientists have just finished upgrading a solar telescope called GREGOR at the Teide Observatory in the Canary Islands, and the result is a spectacular new set of images of our star.

“This was a very exciting, but also extremely challenging project,” Lucia Kleint, a scientist at the Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics in Freiburg, Germany and lead researcher on the project, said in a statement. “In only one year we completely redesigned the optics, mechanics and electronics to achieve the best possible image quality.” 

GREGOR began its observations in 2012 as Europe’s largest solar telescope and the upgrade project began in 2018. The upgrades included work on the telescope’s optics and control systems, repainting the observatory to reflect less light and interfere less with observations, and implementing new scheduling policies to improve the scientific output of observations.

All told, the telescope now allows scientists to capture features on the sun that are only 30 miles (50 kilometers) across, according to the statement. And since solar activity is currently on an upswing as the minimum point of the current 11-year solar cycle ends, there will be plenty for GREGOR to study.

“The project was rather risky because such telescope upgrades usually take years, but the great team work and meticulous planning have led to this success,” Svetlana Berdyugina, an astrophysicist at the Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg in Germany and director of the Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics, said in the same statement. “Now we have a powerful instrument to solve puzzles on the sun.”

The upgrades are described in a paper published Sept. 1 in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.


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