Scientists at Owens Valley Radio Observatory in California use radio imaging to capture the elusive “ring of fire” effect during an annular solar eclipse.
In a groundbreaking achievement, scientists at the Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO) in California have managed to capture the first-ever radio telescope images of an annular solar eclipse’s famous “ring of fire” effect. Despite being located outside the eclipse’s central path, the observatory’s proximity allowed them to detect the sun’s corona, the super-hot outer atmosphere that is invisible to the naked eye during a solar eclipse. This remarkable feat provides new insights into the solar corona and expands our understanding of this celestial phenomenon.
The Unique Opportunity at Owens Valley Radio Observatory
On October 14, 2023, an annular solar eclipse was visible within a 125-mile-wide belt across nine U.S. states, including the northeastern tip of California. While the Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO) in Big Pine, California, was not within the path of the eclipse, it was still able to capture an 80.5% partial solar eclipse. Thanks to OVRO’s proximity, scientists were able to observe and study the sun’s corona, which is typically hidden from view during a solar eclipse. This unique opportunity provided valuable data for further analysis and research.
Revealing the Invisible with Radio Imaging
Radio astronomy, the study of celestial objects at radio frequencies, allows scientists to observe phenomena that are invisible to the human eye. The OVRO-LWA, equipped with 352 antennas, provided researchers with the ability to detect and image the sun’s extended corona during the annular solar eclipse. By sampling thousands of radio wavelengths simultaneously, scientists were able to visualize the “ring of fire” effect in unprecedented detail. This breakthrough in radio imaging technology opens up new possibilities for studying the sun’s corona outside of total eclipses.
Unveiling a Larger Solar Disk
The radio images captured by the OVRO-LWA revealed a much larger solar disk compared to its visible counterpart. This is due to the sensitivity of radio frequencies to the extended solar corona, which extends far beyond the visible surface of the sun. The ability to observe the corona outside of a total eclipse is a significant development in solar research. It allows scientists to study the sun’s outer atmosphere continuously, providing a deeper understanding of its dynamics and behavior.
A Spectacular Breakthrough in Radio Imaging
The success of capturing the “ring of fire” effect through radio imaging during the annular solar eclipse marks a significant milestone in solar research. Professor Bin Chen, the associate professor of physics at New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research (NJIT-CSTR), who led the observations, expressed excitement about the findings. “To finally see a ‘ring of fire’ eclipse this way was spectacular,” Chen said. The images obtained by the OVRO-LWA project surpassed previous radio imaging of the sun, offering a level of detail and clarity that was unprecedented.
Expanding Our Understanding of the Sun
The ability to observe the sun’s corona continuously, rather than solely during a total eclipse, provides scientists with a wealth of data to study and analyze. Professor Dale Gary, a co-investigator on the OVRO-LWA project, emphasized the significance of this breakthrough. “We normally cannot see the corona from the ground except during a total eclipse, but we can now see it all the time with OVRO-LWA. This eclipse makes it that much more dramatic,” Gary stated. The newfound ability to study the sun’s corona outside of eclipses will contribute to a deeper understanding of solar activity and its impact on Earth.
The groundbreaking radio telescope images captured by scientists at the Owens Valley Radio Observatory during the annular solar eclipse have provided a remarkable glimpse into the sun’s corona. Despite being outside the eclipse’s central path, the observatory’s proximity allowed researchers to detect the elusive “ring of fire” effect and visualize the sun’s extended corona in unprecedented detail. This breakthrough in radio imaging technology opens up new avenues for studying the sun’s outer atmosphere continuously, expanding our understanding of solar dynamics and shedding light on the mysteries of our nearest star.