NASA NuSTAR is a space-based X-ray telescope that uses a conical approximation to a Wolter telescope to focus high energy X-rays. Researchers using NASA’s NuSTAR telescope have found X-ray evidence of small bursts of radiation in the sun’s corona called “nanoflares,” which produced this breathtaking image of the closest star.
NASA’s has turned a space telescope designed to capture images of black holes millions of light years away towards its own back yard to get an up-close look at our sun. According to a report from Discover News, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has given astronomers a glimpse into the high-energy x-rays produced in the sun’s corona.
NuSTAR’s X-ray photos were imposed on top of ultraviolet images captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) as well as lower-energy X-rays captured by the Hinode observatory in Japan. The result is a colorful, detailed view of the sun.
The sun’s multi-million-degree “atmosphere,” heated by magnetic bursts of energy, is called the corona. The corona is so hot that the plasma emanating from the surface can reach millions of degrees Kelvin.
This presents physicists with a puzzling dilemma – traditional thermodynamics says that the further away you get from a heat source, the cooler the temperature should be. In the case of the sun, however, the corona is actually hotter than the surface.
NuSTAR’s pictures have been helping scientists figure out what’s happening in the corona. They believe that the intense temperature readings are driven by small-scale events called nanoflares. They dump large quantities of energy into the corona, causing the temperature to jump. Nanoflares are invisible to the naked eye, but they generate large amounts of X-rays that can be measured by the space telescope.
NuSTAR will continue to look for these small bursts of solar energy so that physicists may gain some insight into how the corona maintains such a high temperature.
Even though NuSTAR was designed to measure energy from black holes millions of light years away, it has produced some truly spectacular images of the sun in its own neighborhood.