It’s certainly been an exciting few months for telescopes. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has just released new stellar images of the Sun’s face, provided by the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) in Hawaii. The images show the chromosphere, the middle layer of the sun’s atmosphere, that can reaches over 13,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The pictures vaguely resemble the bright yellow flowers in Vincent van Gogh’s painting “Sunflowers”.

Wisps of fiery plasma flow into the corona, the sun’s outermost atmospheric level, from a pattern of pores. The solar chromosphere lies below crown, which is usually invisible and has historically only been observed during a total solar eclipse. But new technology like this telescope has changed that.

The bubbles are called granules and are about 994 miles wide. Each of these portraits shows an area about 51,260 miles wide, only a small percentage of the sun’s total diameter.

[Related: NASA’s solar probe reveals stunning results after swooping in close to the sun.]

The images were taken on June 3rd and posted this week. Named for the late Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Inouyeon DKIST it is currently the largest solar telescope in the world. The 13 foot wide telescope mounts on top of the mountain and the volcano Haleakala (or “House of the Sun”) on the island of Maui. It is focused on understanding the explosive behavior of the sun and observing its magnetic fields. It will also help scientists predict and prepare for solar storms called coronal mass ejection (CME). CME outbursts send hot plasma from the solar corona toward Earth and disrupt electricity and Internet connections. It is part of NSF’s National Solar Observatory.

“With the world’s largest solar telescope now in science operations, we are grateful to everyone who makes this remarkable facility possible,” said Matt Mountain, president of AURA. in a press release. “In particular, we thank the people of Hawaii for the privilege of working from this remarkable location, the National Science Foundation and the US Congress for their consistent support, and our Inouye Solar Telescope team, many of whom have tirelessly dedicated a decade to this transformational project. A new era of solar physics begins!’

[Related: What happens when the sun burns out?]

This telescope is not without controversy, as its location is sacred to native Hawaiians. They are considered mountain peaks like this one wao akua, (kingdom of the gods), places where both deities and demigods existed on Earth. They are still sacred places of reverence visited by many native Hawaiians they honor ancestors and practice other spiritual traditions.

In 2017 interview with Science, Kaleikoa Kaeo, a professor of Hawaiian language at the University of Hawaii’s Maui College at Kahului and a leader of opposition to the telescope said, “As humans, we have no control over some of our most sacred sites. They say Hawaiian culture is against science. I say, “No, it’s Hawaiian culture versus white supremacy.”

After the protests in 2015 and 2017telescope staff began meeting with working groups of Native Hawaiians who have since gained more authority over the site. The summit also remains open to Native Hawaiians and a sun-centered middle school curricula that highlight Hawaii’s long history of astronomy study has been developed.


The sun’s chromosphere is shades of golden in these new images

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