A new spectacular image released by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) observatory has revealed a dazzling X-ray pattern being emitted by the sun. The image which was created along with Japan’s Hinode observatory where they created a composite image using combined data shows X-rays in various colors. NuStar’s high energy X-rays are viewed in blue where lower energy radiations are seen in green. Interestingly, the X-ray activity is most abundant in the region of the sun where solar flares and massive eruptions of radiation and charged particles are abundant. However, since NuStar telescope can sometimes be overpowered by glare from the sun leading to an inability to directly observe the sun.
Researchers now want to test the capabilities of the instrument to view nanoflares which are gas formations measured to be 1,000 times smaller than microflares. These emissions can produce electrons at extremely high velocities that also generate X-rays that can be detected by NuStar.
Astrophysicists believe that nanoflares are the main sources of heat in the sun’s atmosphere (corona), that can produce higher temperatures than the surface of the sun.This has proven to be a mystery for astronomers as to why the sun’s atmosphere is hotter than its surface.
It is a nearly perfect spherical ball of hot plasma, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process. Chemically, about three quarters of the Sun’s mass consists of hydrogen, whereas the rest is mostly helium, and much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon and iron.
The sun is known to possess a 22 year long cycle where it develops sunspots over a period of 11 years before the magnetic fields of these formations flip or rotate for another 11 years. Astronomers believe that the ideal time to observe these nanoflares is during the beginning of a new sunspot cycle, where activity is at a minimum.
According to Iain Hannah from the University of Glasgow, the sun is mellowing down from its solar activity cycle where it can take more or less two years to reach a minimum.
These new NuStar images of our sun are the key for astronomers to figure out and estimate the energy emissions of these flares and examine the processes involved for these releases. Scientists also believe that NuStar has the ability to detect axions that are associated with dark matter that can further explain where the mass of the universe originates from.