NASA’s NuSTAR Telescope Captures Stunning Solar Portrait


NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) was initially designed to gaze at the distant dead stars. But researchers turned its focus to our Sun to take pictures. NuSTAR has taken the most sensitive and colorful solar portrait ever taken in high-energy solar X-rays. It revealed that there is something common between the Sun and distant black holes. They both emit high-energy X-rays.

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NuSTAR could safely stare at the Sun

A couple of years ago, scientists working on NASA’s NuSTAR mission found that the telescope could safely stare at the Sun. Other X-ray observatories such as Chandra can’t do that. NuSTAR was able to achieve this feat because it is blind to almost everything except high-energy X-rays. The quantity of X-rays produced by the Sun is not harmful to the telescope’s detectors.

David Smith, a solar physicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said that NuSTAR will provide us a look at the deepest to the highest parts of the Sun’s atmosphere. The first solar image demonstrates that the high-energy solar X-rays gather near active regions on the solar surface. These rays are emitted by the most energetic, hottest astrophysical processes.

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NuSTAR has the potential to capture nanoflares

In the solar portrait above, X-rays detected by NuSTAR appear as bluish-green patches that cluster near areas where gas temperature is above 3 million Fahrenheit. The reddish sun is the UV image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which gives us a look at the lower-temperature, lower energy material. What’s more, NuSTAR has the potential to capture the nanoflares.

Nanoflares are the smaller version of the Sun’s giant flares that erupt with high-energy radiation and charged particles. Nanoflares may help scientists explain why the Sun’s corona is so hot. The Sun’s corona has an average temperature of one million degrees Celsius, compared to just 6,000 degrees Celsius on the surface of the Sun. Researchers believe nanoflares could be the source of the intense heat.

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