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Published on Aug 28, 2010
Credit and thanks to spaceweather.com for the article below..
SPACEWEATHER.COM - "FIRST LIGHT FROM THE NEW SOLAR TELESCOPE"
"This is a first light adaptive optics image from the New Solar Telescope (NST) at the Big Bear Solar Observatory in California. "With a 1.6-meter primary mirror, the NST is the largest solar telescope in the world," says Nicolas Gorceix of the observatory staff. "It has realtime correction for atmospheric distortion (adaptive optics), so we can see things in very high resolution--as small as 65 km wide on the sun."
"For perspective," he adds, "Earth is slightly smaller than the whole sunspot including the dark umbra and the daisy petal-like penumbra. The spot is surrounded by the sun's ubiquitous granular field [which shows the boiling motions of the sun's surface]."
Researchers believe that high-resolution studies of sunspots can help them understand how sunspots evolve and anticipate when they're about to erupt. "Next year, we plan to upgrade the telescope with a much higher-order adaptive optics system to get even better images," says Gorceix."
"Highest resolution observations made with the new 1.6 m aperture solar telescope in Big Bear Solar Observatory during this time of historic inactivity on the Sun reveal new insights into the small-scale dynamics of the Sun's photosphere. The telescope's unprecedented resolution enabled us to observe that the smallest scale photospheric magnetic field comes in isolated points in the dark intergranular lanes, rather than the predicted continuous sheets confined to the lanes, and the unexpected longevity of the bright points implies a deeper anchoring than predicted. Further, we demonstrated for the first time that the photospheric plasma motion and magnetic fields are in equipartition over a wide dynamic range, and both cascade energy to ever-smaller scales according to classical Kolmogorov turbulence theory. Finally, we discovered tiny jet-like features originating in the dark lanes that surround the ubiquitous granules that characterize the solar surface. The tiny jets apparently have sufficient energy to resolve the mystery of why the overlying chromosphere is hotter than the photosphere."