The world’s largest solar observatory, National Science Foundation (NSF) Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawaii, has released its first image of a sunspot, capturing the phenomenon in striking detail. The image, taken last January, is among the first solar images of the new Solar Cycle 25. The telescope’s 4-meter primary mirror will give the best views of the sun from Earth throughout the next solar cycle. The image was released along with the first of a series of Inouye-related articles featured in the Solar Physics journal. As radio amateurs know, sunspots and other solar activity can affect HF radio propagation, among other things, and they are where coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and solar flares originate. The Inouye telescope is in its final stages of construction.
“While the start of telescope operations has been slightly delayed due to the impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic, this image represents an early preview of the unprecedented capabilities that the facility will bring to bear on our understanding of the sun,” said David Boboltz, NSF Inouye Solar Telescope Program Director for the Inouye Solar Telescope. Solar Cycle 25 is predicted to occur in mid-2025.
“With this solar cycle just beginning, we also enter the era of the Inouye Solar Telescope,” said Matt Mountain, President of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), the organization that manages the National Solar Observatory and the Inouye Solar Telescope. “We can now point the world’s most advanced solar telescope at the sun to capture and share incredibly detailed images and add to our scientific insights about the sun’s activity.”
During the peak of Solar Cycle 24, 120 sunspots were tracked. Some 115 sunspots are predicted for the peak of Solar Cycle 25.
The new image encompasses an area on the sun’s surface of some 10,000 miles across — just a tiny part of the sun, but large enough to fit Earth inside, the Inouye Solar Telescope said in its statement.
The telescope is located on the island of Maui in Hawaii and is the largest optical solar telescope in the world. Construction began in 2013 and is slated to be fully completed in 2021. — Thanks to the National Solar Observatory and news media reports