A closer look was taken on the sun by NASA’s NuSTAR telescope, which was designed to view black holes throughout the universe. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array is what NASA calls NuSTAR and is one of the most sensitive telescopes on the planet. The result was spectacular, and it was a first, as well as best for scientists to date.
NuSTAR produced the best solar portrait that has ever been taken of the sun in high-energy X-rays. Fiona Harrison of the California Institute of Technology said, “At first I thought the whole idea was crazy. Why would we have the most sensitive high energy X-ray telescope ever built, designed to peer deep into the universe, look at something in our own back yard?”
Valid thoughts, but even she noted that the long term education that could take place from gaining this insight would be great when it comes to actually understanding the sun more effectively, as well as understanding X-rays and how they interact with the rest of the universe. The study began roughly 7 years ago, when the idea was first proposed to the NuSTAR director, and eventually became a thorough plan for the team to study.
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Some of the things that scientists hope they can learn from this, are answering questions about the hot spots on the sun, understanding the atmosphere above those hot and cool spots, as well as identifying what happens over the sun in terms of the X-rays produced when activity begins to simmer a bit in the coming years. The team pointed out that the next two to three years are expected to be slow, and quiet for the sun when compared to the last couple of years.
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The biggest question that scientists hope to answer, is the one regarding the outer atmosphere of the sun – and its temperature relative to the rest of the sun. Should the scientists be able to really take a closer look at things like nanoflares – the team could actually determine why the sun has an outer atmosphere that is considerably hotter than the actual surface of the sun.