Thanks to NASA telescope, ‘corona’ got sharper

NASA has captured the highest resolution images ever taken of the sun’s million-degree atmosphere called the corona.

The super high-definition images can help scientists understand better the behaviour of the solar atmosphere and its impacts on Earth’s space environment, NASA said in a statement.

‘These revolutionary images of the sun demonstrate the key aspects of NASA’s sounding rocket programme, namely the training of the next generation of principal investigators, the development of new space technologies, and scientific advancements,’ said Barbara Giles, director for NASA’s Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Launched from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the 58-foot-tall sounding rocket carried NASA’s High Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) telescope.

Weighing 210 kg, the 10-foot-long payload took 165 images during its brief 620-second flight.

The telescope focused on a large active region on the sun with some images revealing the dynamic structure of the solar atmosphere in fine detail.

These images were taken in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength. This higher energy wavelength of light is optimal for viewing the hot solar corona.

‘We have an exceptional instrument and launched at the right time,’ said Jonathan Cirtain, senior heliophysicist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

‘Because of the intense solar activity we’re seeing right now, we were able to clearly focus on a sizable, active sunspot and achieve our imaging goals,’ said Cirtain.

The high-resolution images were made possible because of a set of innovations on Hi-C’s optics array. 

Hi-C’s mirrors are approximately 9 1/2 inches across, roughly the same size as the Solar Dynamics Observator (SDO) instrument’s.
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