Purple shag Sun

By Phil Plait | November 1, 2012 10:05 am

The great astrophotographer Andre van der Hoeven sent me a shot he took of the Sun a few days ago. Looks like either Barney or the Grape Nehi folks paid it a visit:

[Click to envioletenate.]

Pretty cool. First, of course, the purple color is not real. It’s just the color Andre chose for this picture when he processed it. Second, he used an Hα filter, which lets through a very narrow slice of light (actually in the red part of the spectrum). This color is emitted by warm hydrogen, and is preferentially under the influence of the Sun’s magnetism. You can see arching prominences – huge towers of gas – off the edge of the Sun. The long stringy bits on the face of the Sun are called filaments, and are actually the exact same thing as prominences! Prominences are filaments we see from the side, instead of looking down on them. The terminology is a holdover from when astronomers first started observing the Sun, and we’re kinda stuck with it.

Also, Andre inverted the picture, so what looks black is actually very bright, and what looks bright is very dark. Those bright white blotches? Sunspots. For some reason, our brains can pick out detail better that way, and it also gives an eerie 3D sense to the image. He made a close-up mosaic of his pictures, too, which is actually a bit creepy. It’ll keep the Halloween spirit going for another day, at least!

Image credit: Andre van der Hoeven, used by permission.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures

Comments (8)

  1. Every time I see one of these sun pictures, I’m reminded of the photographs of a human egg.


  2. Matt B.

    First Santa Claus, then the Tooth Fairy, and now you tell me purple isn’t real either?!

    Actually, it just looks blue to me anyway. And that tells me that van der Hoeven is part of the Blue Sun [蓝日] conspiracy. :)

  3. alfaniner

    One of those silly instant thoughts that occur:

    “It looks really evenly lit!”

  4. Nigel Depledge

    Alfaniner (3) said:

    It looks really evenly lit

    You’re absolutely right. This can’t be a real shot at all. I bet it was faked on a sound stage in Nevada.

  5. Where’s Austin Powers?

  6. Very cool. I suddenly have a craving for grapes!

    Question: The sun doesn’t look entirely round. It might just be an optical illusion, but does anyone else see that image as being distorted from true round? If so, is that a result of atmospheric scintillation?

  7. jim zushin

    again, the greatest gift given to me by my biologist geek son has been Bad Astronomy. Over and over you prove to me, though in my son’s words “not through empirical data”, the majesty of God the father, creator of the heavens and earth. Thank you Andre and Phil

  8. Dan C

    Since the background of the inverted image is black, does that mean that part of the image is bright in the wavelength, or is it just changed back to black in the processing?


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