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NASA’s telescope NuSTAR captures high-energy X-ray image of the Sun


NASA’s orbiting space-based telescope NuSTAR has captured a rich palette of X-ray and ultraviolet colors bursting from the Sun. The telescope has found X-ray evidence of radiation called “nanoflares” in the Sun’s corona, resulting in the amazing image of the star.nasa-nustar-sun-xray-image

NASA’s space telescope which is used for capturing black holes, millions of light years away was turned towards the star for a closer look. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) provided an oppurtunity for astronomer to understand the high-energy X-rays in the Sun’s corona. These X-ray photos were imposed on ultraviolet images, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) and by Hinode observatory in Japan.

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“Our Sun is quietening down its activity cycle, but still has a couple of years before it reaches a minimum,” said Dr Iain Hannah of the University of Glasgow.

Hannah mentioned that there a few active regions on the Sun. The active areas consist of flares, massive eruptions on the surface that eject charged particles and high-energy radiation. This happens when the magnetic field is tangled, broken and they reconnect. Though NuSTAR cannot capture the larger flares due to its sensitivity, it can measure the energy of smaller flares, which generate only one-millionth energy of the largest flares.

Hypothesized nanoflares, which generate only one-billionth energy of the flares can be detected by NuSTAR. Nanoflares could reveal details about the Sun’s atmosphere, and why the corona is hotter. Due to NuSTAR’s sensitivity, scientists believe that  these tiny flares could also send out high-energy electrons at amazing velocities, and they give off high-energy X-rays.

NuSTAR will continue to observe the small bursts of solar energy, which might give an insight into how the corona maintains high temperature. An astronomer on the NuSTAR team said that the telescope is so versatile that we can hunt black holes million of light years away and we can also learn something fundamental about the star in our own backyard.

Click to view the large image:

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A movie buff, a bookworm, and a compulsive doodler. All posts by Anirudh

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