NASA's high energy X-ray imaging telescope NuSTAR was designed to obtain extremely high-energy X-ray images of distant black hole and neutron star systems, and external galaxies in deep space. But sources of high-energy X-ray emission lie closer to home, too. What, for example, would the sun look like at the high energies which NuSTAR detects? Does it emit at the high energies seen by NuSTAR, and if so, how? To help answer these questions, NuSTAR recently obtained its first-ever look at the sun. The image above shows the high-energy emission seen by NuSTAR superimposed on an image of the sun at lower-energy, ultraviolet wavelengths by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shown in red. The NuSTAR observation shows that high-energy X-ray emission, shown in blue and green, is localized to active regions associated with sunspots, where the sun's local magnetic field is intensified. This first-ever look at the high energy solar radiation by NuSTAR is a proof of concept, and shows that NuSTAR observations of the sun are indeed possible. This opens the door for follow-on NuSTAR observations throughout the solar cycle, observations which may help finally solve the puzzle of how the solar corona, the most extensive region of the solar atmosphere, gets heated to temperatures in excess of a million degrees.
Published: January 5, 2015
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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Monday, 12-Jan-2015 07:59:55 EST