Highest-ever resolution images of the Sun unveiled for first time by British researchers

Imogen Braddick
University of Lancashire

These incredible images show the Sun in "ultra high resolution" for the first time.

British researchers have collaborated with NASA to unveil the images, the highest-ever resolution.

The images, analysed by researchers at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Centre, provide astronomers with a better understanding of the Sun's complex atmosphere.

Until now, certain parts of the Sun's atmosphere had appeared dark or mostly empty.

But the new images have revealed it actually contains strands of hot electrified gases that are around 500km (311 miles) in width.

The telescope was carried into space on a rocket (University of Lancashire)

The ultra-sharp images were taken by NASA's High-Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C) telescope, carried into space on a sub-orbital rocket flight.

The telescope can pick out structures in the Sun's atmosphere as small as 70km in size, or about 0.01 per cent of its total size.

The images provide astronomers will a new look at the Sun (University of Lancashire )

Although what exactly is creating these strands remains unclear, scientific debate will now focus on why they are formed and how their presence helps us understand the eruption of solar flares and solar storms that could affect life on Earth.

Robert Walsh, professor of solar physics at UCLan, said the images provided an "ultra-high definition" glimpse of the Sun for the first time.

The exceptional quality of the Hi-C telescope allowed researchers to see the sun in a different way (University of Lancashire)

"Until now, solar astronomers have effectively been viewing our closest star in 'standard definition', whereas the exceptional quality of the data provided by the Hi-C telescope allows us to survey a patch of the Sun in 'ultra-high definition' for the first time," he said.

Tom Williams, a postdoctoral researcher at UCLan who worked on the Hi-C data, said the images would help provide a greater understanding of how the Earth and Sun related to each other.

Researchers have unveiled

"This is a fascinating discovery that could better inform our understanding of the flow of energy through the layers of the Sun and eventually down to Earth itself," he said.

"This is so important if we are to model and predict the behaviour of our life-giving star."