Super High-Resolution Photo of the Sun Reveals It Looks Like ... Corn

NSO/AURA/NSF
NSO/AURA/NSF

Studying the Sun isn't as simple as viewing it through a regular telescope. To capture our home star's surface in extreme detail, the National Solar Observatory designed a telescope that can account for the distortion of the Earth's atmosphere while withstanding extreme heat. Now, MIT Technology Review reports that the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope has snapped the highest-resolution photo of the Sun yet—and it looks like corn.

Never before has the Sun been captured in greater detail than in the image above. Rather than the uniform yellow disk we see from Earth, the photograph shows a star with a crackled surface of smushed-together cells resembling the contents of a Cracker Jack bag. Those kernel-shaped blobs are actually plasma bubbles roiling on the Sun's surface, and each one is roughly the size of Texas.

Some clever engineering was used to get this unprecedented look of the star that powers our solar system. Located in Maui, Hawaii, the National Science Foundation's National Solar Observatory outfitted the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope with a 13-foot mirror. The mirror is constantly adjusting itself, changing its shape 2000 times per second to cancel out the distortions of the Earth's atmosphere and get a clear view of the Sun. Pointing a massive mirror at the Sun also generates a dangerous amount of heat. To stop the telescope from melting, it's cooled by a system consisting of a swimming pool's worth of ice and coolant distributed by 7.5 miles of piping.

The high-defintion picture of the Sun isn't just pretty to look at; it can also teach scientists about phenomena that affect our home planet. "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," France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation, said in a news release. "This telescope will improve our understanding of what drives space weather and ultimately help forecasters better predict solar storms.”

By getting an intimate view of the Sun, astronomers hope to finally unravel some of its mysteries, like why its outer atmosphere, or corona, is so much hotter than its surface, and which forces dictate its magnetic seasons. This image is just a preview—the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is still being built, and formal observations don't begin until July. The plan is to use the telescope to capture at least four solar cycles, or 44 years of data.

[h/t MIT Technology Review]

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

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NASA Names Washington, D.C., Headquarters After ‘Hidden Figure’ Mary Jackson

Mary W. Jackson at NASA in 1980.
Mary W. Jackson at NASA in 1980.
Adam Cuerden, NASA Langley Research Center, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In the past, NASA’s headquarters building in Washington, D.C., was simply known as “NASA Headquarters” or “Two Independence Square” (the name of that particular piece of real estate). This week, the agency officially named it the “Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters,” after NASA’s first Black female engineer.

Jackson worked as a math teacher and U.S. Army Secretary before NASA—called the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics at the time—recruited her as a research mathematician for its segregated West Area Computing Unit in 1951. After completing a training program in 1958 (which she needed special permission to attend, since it took place at a whites-only high school), she was promoted to engineer.

In the following decades, Jackson studied wind tunnels and air behavior around aircraft, and she was also instrumental in helping the U.S. pull forward in the Space Race of the 1960s. But Jackson’s legacy goes beyond her own engineering efforts: Between 1979 and 1985, she participated in the Federal Women’s Program at NASA’s Langley Research Center, where she advocated for the hiring and promotion of more female scientists.

mary jackson with young female scientists in 1983
Jackson with a group of young scientists and mathematicians in 1983.

“Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a press release. “Mary never accepted the status quo; she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology.”

Jackson died in 2005, and her story was largely unknown until the release of Margot Lee Shetterly’s 2016 book Hidden Figures and subsequent film of the same name, which chronicled the contributions of Jackson and her colleagues Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Christine Darden. In 2019, Congress passed a bipartisan bill to rename the part of E Street SW where NASA’s headquarters is located to Hidden Figures Way, and the women were also awarded Congressional Gold Medals.

NASA headquarters
The Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson,” Jackson’s daughter Carolyn Lewis said in the press release. “She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother, and trailblazer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA, but throughout this nation.”