Who hasn’t looked at the sun and has been frustrated that its really hard to actually make out what it looks like due to the fact that it is so far away and so stunningly bright. Well, the Institute I work for has a really nice solution to the problem: We operate solar telescopes on a nearby mountain as well as some building sized ones on the Canary Islands.

I work in the data processing section of the operation so I get in touch with a lot of different kinds of data. The image I’m sharing today is a plot of data from the telescope control database. Every couple of seconds, the telescope observes where it is pointing. Below, I’ve plotted all of these data points on top of the region covered by the sun:

The Image contains about four years’ worth of observations. Isn’t it fascinating to look at the patterns and think that for each of the mesmerizing patterns we can see, someone had a scientific question they were trying to answer? There’s actually quite a lot of interesting features you can see, for instance the striking circle patterns:

They are artifacts of a process called flatfielding: When taking data, tiny characteristics of the optical setup such as mites of dust can remain on the image. To account for that, Observers take flatfield images, where the telescope is intentionally de-focused and moved over the solar surface. This yields a very homogeneous flat image, leaving only the optical artifacts. The images can then be used to correct actual data taken with a focused telescope.

This among other techniques allows scientists to take high-resolution images of features on the solar surface such as this image of a Sunspot:

Image of a Sunspot observed with the GREGOR Telescope
Sep. 2017 Copyright Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics

Looking at the Sun
Tagged on:             

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *