A new photo of a sunspot on the surface of the sun taken by a telescope in California is the most detailed seen in visible light, scientists say.
The sunspot snapshot was obtained by the New Solar Telescope at the Big Bear Solar Observatory in Big Bear Lake, Calif., operated by the New Jersey Institute of Technology. [New sunspot photo]
Sunspots are temporary dark structures on the surface of the sun caused by intense magnetic activity. They sometimes erupt, sending energetic storms into space that can head our way. By studying sunspots, scientists hope to better understand solar weather and its effects on Earth. A strong solar storm can send powerful charged particles streaming at our planet that can knock out power grids and destroy electronics, both in satellites and on the ground.
The telescope is touted to be the worlds? largest ground-based solar instrument and was completed last year, NJIT officials said in a statement.
The new sunspot photo is the "first light" target for the observatory's new advanced optics system during a solar photography session on July 1-2. It has a resolution of about 50 miles (80 km) and is the best yet taken by a ground-based telescope, observatory officials said.
Adaptive optics in telescopes is a technique that uses a deformable mirror to compensate for the blurring of images caused when light passes through Earth's atmosphere. The New Solar Telescope has 67 motors that can be moved to bend the mirror to provide clear pictures of the sun.
The observatory is a pathfinder for a proposed larger solar telescope, the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, which would have 349 motors, observatory officials said.
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