Here’s What the Sun Looks Like Through an X-Ray Telescope

All of the wonder of Earth’s closest star, none of the retinal damage


Looking straight at the sun isn’t exactly a recommended activity — even gazing at an eclipse can cause what NASA calls “a thermal retinal burn.” Thankfully, we haveastronomers to do the dirty and dangerous work using fancy equipment. And now, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, also known as NuSTAR, has compiled a colorful new view of the sun using X-ray telescopes and observations of UV light.

A combined telescopic image of the sun is somewhat new territory for NuSTAR, which usually focuses its array on places much deeper in space. This time, scientists trained their devices on something much closer to home. They collated images from three different X-ray telescopes using a mosaic-like technique that sews smaller images into a larger picture of the sun.

The blue-white spots on the image are the most energetic, notes Dr. Ian Hannah, who presented the image at the Royal Astronomical Society’s annual meeting today. In a release, he notes that more energy isn’t necessarily better when it comes to X-ray telescopes — in fact, he and other scientists are waiting for the sun to become less active so they can start to detect hypothesized events like nanoflares and axion particles.

But don’t let their wait for even better X-ray images of Earth’s closest star keep you from taking a close look — you can view a higher-resolution image here.

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