Big Bear's Sunspot
This crisp view of a sunspot, captured by New Jersey Institute of Technology's New Solar Telescope and released last week, may be the most detailed picture of its kind yet shot in visible light, astronomers say.
The 5.25-foot (1.6-meter) telescope, which became operational last year, sits at the school's Big Bear Solar Observatory in the San Bernardino Mountains of California. The device uses a special deformable mirror—part of what's called an adaptive optics system—to compensate for atmospheric distortions and produce ground-based images with about the same clarity as shots from orbiting observatories, experts say.
(See the sharpest picture of Jupiter yet taken from Earth.)
High-resolution sunspot pictures in many types of light help scientists better understand solar storms and space weather, which can disrupt navigation and communication systems on Earth and expose people in spacecraft or airplanes to potentially harmful radiation. (Read "Magnetic-Shield Cracks Found; Big Solar Storms Expected.")
"With visible light, we can see very detailed structures on the sun's surface," said William Dean Pesnell, project scientist for NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.
New Sunspot Pictures: Sharpest View Yet in Visible Light
A new telescope at Big Bear Solar Observatory has captured the most detailed image yet of a sunspot in visible light, astronomers say.