The image above was captured using observations from three telescopes – NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and Japan’s Hinode spacecraft.
The colors of the sun above shows us how each telescope sees the sun differently.
NuSTAR captured high-energy X-rays (shown in blue), near the left and right limbs of the sun. Additional X-rays can be seen in the active regions on the upper right and lower left parts of the sun.
Hinode observed low-energy X-rays (shown in green) throughout the sun’s surface.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory observations dominate the image. Extreme ultraviolet light paints the sun yellow and red.
You see the blue-white regions? Those areas are the most active with temperatures eclipsing several million degrees.
Let’s dive into the telescopes that made this image possible.
Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR)
The NuSTAR launched in 2012 and focuses light in the high-energy X-ray (3 – 79 keV) region of the electromagnetic spectrum. It launched in a stowed configuration seen below.
After reaching orbit, NuSTAR’s mast deployed bringing its full length to 33 feet.
NuSTAR’s work spans the cosmos. From the sun in our backyard to collapsed stars and black holes across space.
NASA highlighted NuSTAR’s work with black holes earlier this week with the discovery of five massive black holes.
The X-ray telescope was originally only slated for a two-year mission, but this was extended to 2016.
Japan’s Hinode Spacecraft
Hinode’s specialty is the sun. Using a solar optical telescope, X-ray telescope and an extreme ultraviolet imaging spectrometer – Hinode studies the sun’s solar magnetic fields.
Here are some of the images captured by Hinode during its years observing the sun.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory also studies the sun’s magnetic fields. The generation and structure of magnetic fields are areas scientists hope SDO can shed more light on.
SDO was designed to help answer these seven questions. (via SDO’s mission page)
– What mechanisms drive the quasi-periodic 11-year cycle of solar activity?
– How is active region magnetic flux synthesized, concentrated, and dispersed across the solar surface?
– How does magnetic reconnection on small scales reorganize the large-scale field topology and current systems and how significant is it in heating the corona and accelerating the solar wind?
– Where do the observed variations in the Sun’s EUV spectral irradiance arise, and how do they relate to the magnetic activity cycles?
– What magnetic field configurations lead to the CMEs, filament eruptions, and flares that produce energetic particles and radiation?
– Can the structure and dynamics of the solar wind near Earth be determined from the magnetic field configuration and atmospheric structure near the solar surface?
– When will activity occur, and is it possible to make accurate and reliable forecasts of space weather and climate?
Here’s a GIF of what the sun looked like yesterday from the SDO.
Image credits: NASA