Giant telescope provides razor-sharp images of the sun

German researchers can now reveal complicated structures in the solar plasma: with their solar telescope, they can now observe the star in high resolution. This required a complex conversion.

The largest European solar telescope “Gregor” made razor-sharp images of the fine structure of the sun. The device allowed the researchers to resolve details from just 50 kilometers on the sun, the Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics (KIS) in Freiburg announced.

That corresponds to a fraction of the sun’s diameter of 1.4 million kilometers. “It’s like seeing a needle on a football field in perfect focus from a kilometer away.”

“Project was pretty risky”

The solar telescope is operated by a German consortium led by the KIS and is located at the Teide observatory on the Spanish island of Tenerife. In order to produce the high resolution images, the optics, mechanics and electronics of the device were completely redesigned in just one year. “The project was quite risky because such telescope conversions usually take years,” HIS director Svetlana Berdyugina said according to the announcement.

With the telescope’s new optics, the scientists were now able to examine, for example, magnetic fields, turbulence, solar flares and sunspots in detail, the institute said. “The first photos, taken in July 2020, show astonishing details of the development of sunspots and complicated structures in the solar plasma.”

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