TECH

Sunspot Photo Shows Solar Phenomena In Never-Before-Seen Detail (PICTURES)

08/08/2013 09:29 BST

A remarkable new image has captured in stunning detail the intricacies of a Sunspot.

Taken by the New Solar Telescope (NST) at the superbly named Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO), the image shows previously unseen detail of the Sun's surface.

Sunspots form in areas of intense magnetic activity causing temporary cooler regions to form which appear darker than their surroundings.

sun

Individual filaments of plasma can be distinguished forming an almost flower-like pattern

Despite not being as bright if a sunspot was isolated it would still appear in the sky as being brighter than the Moon.

Another incredible image shows the entire surface of the Sun in unprecedented detail, showing the magnetism of the solar surface two lower layers layers.

sun

The swirling and chaotic surface of the Sun

The lowest is the photosphere where bubbling plasma emits the light we see from Earth. It is also the source of solar flares.

Next is the chromosphere, a layer of super-heated hydrogen which emits a dull red glow. This is normally not visible as it is drowned out by the much brighter photosphere.

The third and final layer is the corona, the ionised plumes of gas that stream off the Sun into space.

Wenda Cao, NJIT Associate Professor of Physics and BBSO Associate Director, said: "With our new generation visible imaging spectrometer (VIS) the solar atmosphere from the photosphere to the chromosphere, can be monitored in a near real time."

The previous most detailed image was taken by the NST in 2010.