World’s largest solar telescope offers better understanding of Sun’s magnetic field

May 29th, 2009 - 4:42 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 29 (ANI): The world’s largest solar telescope, which can capture the Sun’s magnetic field better than other telescopes, is now operational.

The new 1.6-meter clear aperture solar telescope, the largest of its kind in the world, is housed at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, New Jersey, US.

“We are already seeing images offering a better understanding of the Sun,” said NJIT Distinguished Professor of Physics Philip R. Goode.

“With this instrument, we should be able to have a better understanding of dynamic storms and space weather, which can have dramatic effects on Earth,” he added.

Earlier this month, researchers achieved what is called first scientific light.

This means the telescope is operational. To achieve its full powers, at least three more years of work will be needed to bring on-line ever-more sophisticated hardware for observing the Sun.

Nevertheless, Goode and the BBSO (Big Bear Solar Observatory) research team were able to extract a few unique images and one is shown.

The photos clearly illustrate the before-and-after capabilities of the old versus new telescope.

“Our prized first image shows the Sun’s ever-present, turbulent granular field with its largest granules being about the size of Alaska,” Goode said.

“The small, bright points in the dark lanes are less than 50 miles across and are the smallest-scale magnetic structures on the Sun,” he added.

According to Goode, if one looks closely at the “after” photo, you will see a string of pearls.

“Each pearl is a cross-section of an intense, single fiber of the Sun’s magnetic field - the basic building block of the solar magnetism,” he said.

Goode added that the Sun is now in a state of prolonged magnetic inactivity, perhaps the longest such time in a century.

“The new telescope is ideal for studying the Sun as it rises from this strange state of quietude,” he said.

The new instrument has three times the aperture of the old telescope.

It represents a significant advance in high-resolution observations of the Sun, since it has the largest aperture of any solar telescope in existence, said Goode.

The new telescope will be used in joint observation campaigns with NASA satellites to optimize the scientific output of all observations of the Sun. (ANI)

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