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    Flaring, active regions of our sun are highlighted in this new image combining observations from several telescopes

    Black Hole Telescope Snaps Sun's Colorful X-Rays

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    Images taken by NASA's NuSTAR space-based telescope, originally meant for the study of black holes, reveal colorful images of high-energy X-rays coming from the Sun's active regions.

    X-ray images of the Sun taken using the NuSTAR space telescope, as well as data taken using two other telescopes has been combined to produce a striking X-ray image of the Sun's active regions, lit up by the energy of its eruptions.

    The images were taken from three sources:  the high-energy x-rays of NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, which are shown in blue; low-energy x-rays from the Hinode spacecraft in green, and a picture from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) showing ultraviolet light in yellow and red.

    "We can see a few active regions on the sun in this view," said Iain Hannah of the University of Glasgow, Scotland, who presented the image on July 9 at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales. "Our sun is quieting down in its activity cycle, but still has a couple of years before it reaches a minimum."

    The scientists hope the telescope might be able to detect nanoflares, which may produce electrons and high-energy X-rays NuSTAR is capable of detecting. Tiny nanoflares have only one-billionth the energy of flares and are difficult to identify, but might explain the mystery of why the sun's atmosphere, or Corona, is much hotter than the actual surface of the sun below it.

    The NuSTAR space telescope was launched into orbit in June 2012, when it began its two year primary mission to use it high energy X-rays to study collapsed stars, black holes, and supernova remnants.  

    The first high-energy X-ray picture taken by NuSTAR, showing the Sun's west limb, was released in December.
    © NASA . JPL-Caltech/GSFC
    The first high-energy X-ray picture taken by NuSTAR, showing the Sun's west limb, was released in December.
    It first turned its attention to the Sun last year, after solar scientists thought of using the telescope to see the faint X-ray flashes caused by the nanoflares, which are too bright for other telescopes. The first X-ray picture taken of the Sun's west limb was released in December.

    On Wednesday, Hannah explained that though the sun is in moving towards the quieter end of its 11 year cycle of activity, but added "we still need the sun to quiet down more over the next few years to have the ability to detect these events."

    In addition, the solar scientists will try to use NuSTAR to detect a hypothesized dark matter particle called the axion, which could shed light on the mystery of dark matter.


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