The SUNRISE balloon-borne telescope, a collaborative project between the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau and partners in Germany, Spain and the USA, has now delivered images that show the complex interplay on the solar surface to a level of detail never before achieved.
The work of analysing the total of 1.8 terabytes of observation data recorded by the telescope during its five-day flight has only just begun. Yet the first findings already give a promising indication that the mission will bring our understanding of the Sun and its activity a great leap forward. What is particularly interesting is the connection between the strength of the magnetic field and the brightness of tiny magnetic structures. Since the magnetic field varies in an eleven-year cycle of activity, the increased presence of these foundational elements brings a rise in overall solar brightness - resulting in greater heat input to the Earth.
Previously, the observed physical processes could only be simulated with complex computer models. "Thanks to SUNRISE, these models can now be placed on a solid experimental basis," explains Prof. Manfred Schüssler, solar scientist at the MPS and co-founder of the mission.
In addition to the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, numerous other research facilities are also involved in the SUNRISE mission: the Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics in Freiburg, the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder (Colorado), the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias on Tenerife, the Lockheed-Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto (California), NASA's Columbia Scientific Ballooning Facility and the ESRANGE Space Centre. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics through the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).
Related links: Video: surface of the Sun in close up (5 MB)
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