“What’s great about NuSTAR is that the telescope is so versatile that we can hunt black holes millions of light-years away and we can also learn something fundamental about the star in our own backyard”, added Brian Grefenstette with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
But thanks to high energy X-rays dancing on its surface, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) was able to snap an image that showed the sun displaying a rainbow of colors.
Hannah presented this observation on Wednesday at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales. A black hole is an object so compact that it takes on overwhelming gravitational strength, and thus swallows any other object that strays too close.
The NuStar observatory has recorded the sun in X-rays, showing our parent star in a way rarely seen before.
“We can see a few active regions on the Sun in this view”, astronomer Iain Hannah explained in an interview for the Royal Astronomical Society.
The sun goes through a 22-year-long cycle, as sunspots become more and less common over the course of 11 years, before the magnetic fields of these formations flip for another 11 years. Unlike solar flares, which come in sporadic bursts, nanoflares are thought to be constantly occurring on the Sun’s surface.
“Black holes come in several different varieties, all of which are characterized by a dense concentration of mass compressed into a tiny space and a gravitational force so powerful it keeps light from escaping”, the Monitor’s Noelle Swan reported in September, following the discovery of a supermassive black hole inside one of the smallest known dwarf galleries. Nanoflares may help explain why the sun’s atmosphere, or corona is so much hotter than expected. As the electrons zip around, they give off high-energy X-rays.
Astronomers are also excited to use NuSTAR’s images of the sun to pinpoint where energy from flares is released. While scientists know that energy is generally liberated in the upper solar atmosphere, the locations and detailed mechanisms aren’t precisely known. The X-ray activity it captured is seen in blue and is equal to between two and six kiloelectron volts, while low-energy X-rays of between 0.2 to 2.4 kiloelectron volts were captured by Japan’s Hinode spacecraft and are visible in green.