Yesterday, io9.com writer Robert Gonzalez shared a truly incredible image of a sunspot taken by the New Solar Telescope (NST) at Big Bear Solar Observatory in California. The detail of the magnetically-active region and surface of our home star is simply stunning, thanks to the NST’s new Visible Imaging Spectrometer — literally setting a new record for the most detailed visible-light image of a sunspot ever.
In sharing the image on my Facebook page (you ARE following me there, right? 🙂 ) I was alerted by follower Cody Reisdorf that such images aren’t new; sunspot photos and videos have been being captured for quite some time — albeit not to such a fine degree of clarity — by other observatories, notably the Swedish Solar Telescope (SST) located on the island of La Palma. The video above was made from SST observations in May 2010 by Vasco Manuel de Jorge Henriques of the Institute for Solar Physics. It shows the mesmerizing magnetic movements of a sunspot, which is basically an optically-dark region on the Sun’s surface where upwelling magnetic fields prevent convection from occurring.
It doesn’t have the incredible clarity of the NST image, but it does show the dynamics of the Sun’s surface. Amazing to think these blemishes are each easily as large or larger than our entire planet…incredible!
Thanks to Bob Trembley (another LITD fan) for uploading the video to YouTube… so I didn’t have to.
Video credit: SST/ISP/Vasco Manuel de Jorge Henriques