The Sun is a star: A vast, 1.4-million kilometer wide roiling ball of ionized gas with a nuclear furnace at its core and a fiercely complex magnetic field that sometimes takes aim at Earth at its surface.
Getting a good look at it is in our best interest. That magnetic field sometimes gets itself tangled up, then blasts waves of high-energy electromagnetic radiation and subatomic particles so huge it defies the grasp of our puny human brains. A billion tons of hydrogen can erupt toward us at hundreds of thousands of kilometers per hour, crossing the 150 million kilometer gulf between the Sun and Earth in just days. And when it arrives our satellites and even our power grids lie at its mercy.
But seeing it clearly is harder than you think. A lot of the action happens at scales on the surface small enough to get blurred by our atmosphere when viewed through a telescope, made worse because — as you might guess — we have to observe the Sun during the day, when the air and ground beneath it are heated by sunlight, causing our atmosphere to behave even more badly.
Over the years, telescopes have gotten better, ...