ALMA Image Reveals A Massive Dark Spot On Sun

Posted: Jan 18 2017, 7:58am CST | by , Updated: Jan 18 2017, 8:04am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

ALMA Image Reveals a Massive Dark Spot on Sun
Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)
 

The sunspot is almost twice the size of Earth

A gigantic sunspot – almost twice the size of earth – can be seen in the new image of Sun taken from Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The sunspot in the image bears a striking resemblance to a turtle.

Sunspot is a phenomenon that appears periodically on sun’s surface and looks darker compared to surrounding bright regions. These pots are associated with sun’s open magnetic field and are often found at the poles of sun where magnetic field is extremely concentrated and powerful. These areas have much less solar activity which contributes to lower their temperatures and makes them look relatively dark.

While ALMA is originally designed to observe faintest objects in the distant universe, it can also be used to study astronomical objects in our solar system. Using this powerful instrument, researchers gazed at sun for 30 months since 2014 and revealed the otherwise invisible details of the our nearest star.

"We're accustomed to seeing how our Sun appears in visible light, but that can only tell us so much about the dynamic surface and energetic atmosphere of our nearest star," said Tim Bastian from National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville. “To fully understand the Sun, we need to study it across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, including the millimeter and submillimeter portion that ALMA can observe."

Since sun is billions of times brighter than the faint object ALMA typically observers, researchers used the special technique of radio interferometry imaging to capture the sun in exquisite detail. The technique also enabled researchers to avoid the intense heat of sun that is generated by the focused sunlight.

ALMA is capable of studying sun on multiple scales and latest observations can help researchers understand differences in temperatures between various parts of the Sun’s chromospheres. 

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