Science Space

See the sharpest movie of the sun ever made, with each plasma cell the size of Texas

The sun is about 93,000,000 miles away from Earth. The sun’s light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, in total taking just 8 minutes to reach us.

The National Solar Observatory (NSO) has brought us the sharpest view of the sun we’ve seen yet using the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope. Each plasma cell is about the size of Texas.

This is how NSO describes capturing the footage:

The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope has produced the highest resolution observations of the Sun’s surface ever taken. In this movie, taken at a wavelength of 705nm over a period of 10 minutes, we can see features as small as 30km (18 miles) in size for the first time ever. The movie shows the turbulent, “boiling” gas that covers the entire sun.

The cell-like structures – each about the size of Texas – are the signature of violent motions that transport heat from the inside of the sun to its surface. Hot solar material (plasma) rises in the bright centers of “cells,” cools off and then sinks below the surface in dark lanes in a process known as convection. In these dark lanes we can also see the tiny, bright markers of magnetic fields. Never before seen to this clarity, these bright specks are thought to channel energy up into the outer layers of the solar atmosphere called the corona. These bright spots may be at the core of why the solar corona is more than a million degrees!

By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger and curious explorer of the world who connects the dots between life, arts, and knowledge.