The observatory’s 1.6 meter Novel Solar Telescope can now release simultaneous images, for instance, of giant explosions like coronal mass and solar flares ejections that are happening at approximately the same time across large structures like a 20,000 mile wide sunspot in the Sun’s photosphere.
“To comprehend the fundamental dynamics of the Sun, like the origin of solar storms, we need to gather data from as wide as a field of vision as possible,” says Philip Goode, distinguished science lecturer of physics at NJIT and the head of an international group of scientists funded by the National Science Foundation to introduce this futuristic optical system.
“During the large flares, for instance, magnetic field alterations appear to occur at numerous different places with near simultaneity,” he confirms. “Just by witnessing the comprehensive array of eruptions all at once would be able to precisely estimate the strength, sequence and size of these magnetic fields to twist around each other until they explode, spewing giant volumes of particles and radiation that when directed earthward can lead to disruptive space weather.”
The multi-conjugate adaptive optics device settles downstream of the aperture of the BBSO telescope, presently the world’s highest resolution solar telescope. The system is made of three mirrors that alter shape to rectify the path of the incoming light waves, guided by a computer linked to the ultra-fast cameras that take more than 2,000 frames per second to estimate aberrations in the wave path. The system is known as multi-conjugate because each of the three mirrors gather light from a varying altitude, close to the ground and at about three and six miles high and three corrected images together produce a distortion free picture that eradicates the effects of turbulence almost to seven miles.
“The benefit of employing three deformable mirrors rather than one is easily visible. The images are crisp in a much bigger area,” says Dirk Schmidt, a post-doctoral scientist at the National Solar Observatory, a project researcher for the international MCAO group, and first author of this study. “After so many years of work, this is a significant milestone for the novel, wide-field generation of solar adaptive optics.”
The scientific benefits are expected to be multi-level. A more comprehensive and clearer view of solar activity should offer additional clues to the scientists seeking to explain hidden dynamics, like the means by which explosions on the Sun produce magnetic explosions and radiation and boost particles to closely the speed of light within the seconds.
The more researchers comprehend physical procedures taking place more than 90 million miles away, the better would be the policymakers would be able to expect and prepare for solar storms with the ferocity to disrupt communication satellites, shut down air, quench and travel lights, telephones and knock out the GPS.
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