A telescope in Hawaii has produced the highest resolution video of the Sun’s surface ever created, revealing what looks like exploding bits of caramelized popcorn covering the star at the heart of our Solar System.
The trippy image comes from the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, which first started taking images of the Sun in December from Hawaii’s Haleakalā mountain. The observatory is hailed as the largest and most powerful solar telescope in the world. When it’s fully completed this summer, the telescope will be tasked with intensely studying the Sun’s magnetic field to learn more about why our Sun behaves in the weird ways that it does.
To create the molten-looking video above, the telescope observed the Sun for a total of 10 minutes. The “popping” cells in the video are plasma rising up out of the Sun, cooling off, and then retreating back downward. The video is so high resolution that the image shows details and figures just 18 miles across. But the scale of the image is still quite extreme. Each “kernel” in the video is about the size of Texas, and the entire area covered is 11,800 miles by 6,700 miles.
It’s a good time to be studying the Sun right now, with numerous instruments on the ground and in space designed to figure out more about our star. NASA launched its Parker Solar Probe in 2018, which will get closer to the Sun than any human-made object has ever been. And next week, Europe is launching its own Sun-bound spacecraft, the Solar Orbiter, to learn more about the Sun’s mysterious poles.