(CNN)The surface of our sun is a wild, violent place and now we can see it in exquisite detail, thanks to the first images returned by the National Science Foundation's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope based in Hawaii.
First detailed images of a turbulent surface of the sun, thanks to new telescope
The ground-based telescope will work with NASA's Parker Solar Probe, which is orbiting the sun, and the upcoming European Space Agency/NASA Solar Orbiter to help us learn more about the sun and how the space weather it creates could affect Earth.
Details in the newly released images show plasma, which covers the sun, that appears to boil. Giant, Texas-sized cells help create convection, where heat from inside the sun is drawn up to the surface while other cells cool and sink beneath it.
"Since NSF began work on this ground-based telescope, we have eagerly awaited the first images," said France Córdova, National Science Foundation director. "We can now share these images and videos, which are the most detailed of our Sun to date. NSF's Inouye Solar Telescope will be able to map the magnetic fields within the Sun's corona, where solar eruptions occur that can impact life on Earth. This telescope will improve our understanding of what drives space weather and ultimately help forecasters better predict solar storms."
Solar wind streams out from the sun, flinging energetic particles across the solar system. And the sun's corona, the outer atmosphere of the star, is much hotter than the actual surface. The corona is one million degrees Kelvin, while the surface is around 6,000 Kelvin.
Understanding the solar wind and the blazing heat of the corona are key. They both play a role in space weather and solar storms, and understanding the solar wind could enable better prediction of space weather. Solar wind and the corona's temperature also impact ejections of mass from the corona, which could impact the global power grid and telecommunications on Earth, as well as our astronauts on the International Space Station. The energized and accelerated particles streaming away from the sun in the solar wind are also responsible for the northern and southern lights we see on Earth.
But space weather is hard to predict, something scientists are hoping to change with this trio of sun-focused missions and telescopes.