Are you used to seeing the sun as a shiny, perfectly round ball? Well, one of the most powerful observatories in the world reveals that it can actually be scary. After undergoing a substantial update, the GREGOR telescope, located in Spain, allowed the capture of some images of the star with the highest resolution ever obtained in Europe – and they are worthy of nightmares.
In the photos, you can see details of regions that measure only 50 kilometers amid the star’s turbulent activities. “In just one year, we completely redesigned optics, mechanics and electronics [of the device] to achieve the best possible quality”, explains Lucia Kleint, physicist and chief scientist of the project. “It was incredible, but it was also challenging.”
The researchers involved in the adjustments were arrested at the facility in March, due to the blockade stipulated in the country to prevent the spread of covid-19. Then, they used the time they had to correct two significant problems generated by a pair of mirrors on the equipment, which distorted and blurred the records. Both have been completely replaced.
To complicate matters, snowstorms prevented the immediate testing of the implementations, which only occurred in July. Reconnecting GREGOR was the first task accomplished as conditions became favorable.
The fragments seen above may seem like little, but they are solar granules, tops of solar plasma convection cells, whose typical sizes are about 1,500 kilometers – 10% of the Earth. The lighter parts show where the incandescent material rises. As the substance cools, it falls into the depths (darker parts).
Below, it is possible to see a solitary spot that appeared on the surface of the Sun on July 30, 2020. There, the magnetic field is particularly strong, inhibiting normal convection activity. The region is colder than the one found around it and causes the release of large amounts of energy, creating the famous eruptions that can even affect us.
With this type of technology, researchers can understand a little better what is happening in the space body on which human life depends – and it is expected that it will continue to accompany us, from a distance.