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NASA NuSTAR Captures Most Sensitive and Stunning Portrait of Our Sun to Date

First Posted: Dec 23, 2014 08:03 AM EST

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has captured a stunning, new image of our sun. While the mission was designed to examine black holes and other objects far from our solar system, the new picture represents the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays.

"NuSTAR will give us a unique look at the sun, from the deepest to the highest parts of its atmosphere," said David Smith, member of the NuSTAR team, in a news release.

Solar scientists first thought of using NuSTAR to study the sun about seven years ago. Yet it isn't until now that it's been turned toward our sun. The new image actually shows that NuSTAR can gather new data about our sun. In fact, it gives insight into questions about the remarkably high temperatures that are found above sunspots, which are cool, dark patches on the sun.

That's not all that NuSTAR has the potential to do, though. With its high-energy views, it has the potential to capture hypothesized nanoflares, which are smaller versions of the sun's giant flares that erupt with charged particles and high-energy radiation. Nanoflares may actually explain why the sun's outer atmosphere, called the corona, is so hot in comparison to the rest of the sun.

"We will come into our own when the sun gets quiet," said Smith, as he explained that the sun's activity will dwindle over the next few years.

It's likely that NuSTAR will continue to make more findings when it comes to our nearest star. This, in turn, could pave the way for future discoveries and allow us to better understand space weather and our sun's behavior.

For more information about NuSTAR, you can visit NASA's website.

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