Awesomely blemished inverted solar beauty

By Phil Plait | September 2, 2012 7:01 am

Alan Friedman’s photos are no stranger to this blog; I’ve posted a lot of his amazing pictures of the Sun (See Related Posts, below). So many, in fact, that one needs to be surpassingly cool to add to the lineup.

So, yeah:

[Click to ensolarnate.]

Yegads. He took this on July 29, 2012. Because the image is inverted – dark things appear bright, and vice-versa – sunspots are intense white patches, bright plages appear dark, and towering filaments are whitish-gray.

Note how the Sun’s face gets darker toward the center and brighter toward the edge – meaning in reality the center is bright and the edge dimmer. This is called limb-darkening (the opposite of limb-brightening seen in some gas clouds), and occurs because gas around the Sun absorbs its light. We look through more of it near the edge than toward the center, so there’s less light coming from the limb of the Sun.

I’ll note that only the face of the Sun is inverted, though. Everything outside that is normal, so the leaping prominences of gas on the edge are bright, as they should be. That might be a bit confusing, but it does make for a dramatic picture.

And given how volatile our local star, you don’t have to go very far to get drama out of it.

Image credit: Alan Friedman


Related Posts:

Ho hum, another GORGEOUS pic of the Sun
Close-up of a solar monster
No words
Towering transit of Venus

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (8)

Links to this Post

  1. Weekend Links: Early Movie Concept Art – Mental Floss | Art | September 16, 2012
  1. Alan never ceases to amaze, his tumblr is filled with amazing shots.

    Thanks for Sharing!

  2. Daniel J. Andrews

    That is starkly beautiful, almost like an SEM of an ovocyte. When the planets fall into the sun, is it fertilization? Would explain that 2001 scene.

    Incidentally, NASA’s solar dynamics observatory caught a beautiful coronal mass ejection yesterday. Just checked NASA’s sub-earth page and it isn’t on there yet–saw the video clip on the 3D sun app yesterday so worth watching when it is posted.

    Edit. Found it at space weather.com under magnificent eruption. Or google sdo NASA magnificent eruption. It is on YouTube now.

  3. Those aren’t blemishes – they’re features.

  4. VinceRN

    Is our local star particularly volatile? I mean we know that there are spots and flares on other stars, but can we tell on stars similar to the sun? If so could that be a factor in developing life? Could it impact the speed of evolution? Would more active stars be a more likely place to look for life?

    I’m woefully ignorant on this topic, and a quick google search only netted me a lot of links to wingnuts talking about global warming be caused by solar activity or the effect of solar activity on human consciousness.

    I know solar activity has a measurable effect down here, all I have to do is turn on my radios to hear it, does it impact life? Has that been studied? (other than by the above mentioned wingnuts)?

  5. Wzrd1

    @Danial J. Andrews, thanks for the info, the movie was well worth the look!

    @VinceRN, I’d doubt one could expect solar activity to influence life, the magnetic field of the Earth traps charged particles, the atmosphere filters out ionizing radiation, so the only thing we overall get is light and UV on the surface. That said, this one is more in Phil’s field for more details.

  6. jackd

    Looking through the solar ‘scopes at Dragon*Con was one of the highlights of the event. Watching the solar features live is even more wonderful than looking at these images.

    Of course, another highlight was getting to meet the Bad Astronomer!

  7. Yes, you’ve made me a big fan of Alan’s. His photos + your commentary = a great pairing! Thank you!

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