ALMA Telescope Can Directly Observe The Sun

Staring directly at the sun is obviously not a very smart thing to do. The damage to a person’s eyes can be significant and irreparable. But did you know that many telescopes have the same restriction?  The sun’s radiation and heat makes earthbound telescopes unable to function properly. In one case, the sun’s power resulted in the Swedish-ESO Submillimetre Telescope catching fire.

In a series of just-released photos, however, we finally got to see the observational results of a new telescope. This one is designed to be able to handle the sun’s power. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (or ALMA, for short) is stationed in Chile. It uses special antennae to be able to observe the sun’s chromosphere.  Antennae act together to image cosmic bodies, in a process called radio interferometry.

The images released to the public by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) display the telescope’s first direct observation of the sun.

“The result of this work is a series of images that demonstrate ALMA’s unique vision and ability to study our Sun.” said an ESO statement. “The data from the solar observing campaign are being released this week to the worldwide astronomical community for further study and analysis.”

The images turned up a huge sunspot, almost twice the diameter of our planet. The ALMA also imaged the full disc of the sun through a technique called fast scanning. “These maps show the distribution of temperatures in the chromosphere over the whole disc at low spatial resolution and therefore complement the detailed interferometric images of individual regions of interest,” the ESO statement continued.

Still, this doesn’t quite compare to NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Their telescope is out in space, after all. But the ESO hopes that ALMA will help with detailing a complete picture of the sun over the entire electromagnetic spectrum. That’s certainly nothing to shake your head at.

Source: New Atlas

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