Our Sun may only be a medium-sized star, but it absolutely dominates our space neighbourhood. Its gravity influences an area over 287 billion kilometres in width. Incredible!
But today, we want to cross those billions of kilometres to get up close and personal with our favourite star. As in very up close. That's because the National Science Foundation (NSF) has released the clearest ever photos of the Sun's surface. And they are truly mesmerizing.
You might guess that these images have been brought to us by the Parker Solar Probe. You would be absolutely ... wrong.
Though it's true that the probe is in the middle of an historic mission to get closer to the Sun than ever before, it's more in the data collection business than the ultra-high-resolution-photo-taking business. (Though it did take an awesome photo from within the Sun's corona, or atmosphere, recently.) Instead, that title goes to the NSF's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, which is found on Haleakalā, Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. (Well, we knew it had to be some place hot!)
Though construction of the telescope first began in 2013, it was only recently completed—it took what is known as 'first light' in December 2019. And if these are the kinds of images that it can give us, it's been worth the wait!
In the video below, you'll see the surface of the Sun move, as its hot plasma oozes and shifts about. Each of the sections that you see are called granules. They may look small, but each one is around 1,600 kilometres (1,000 miles) wide. That's about the size of the province of Ontario!
Watch this mighty star shimmer in all its glory right here.