Credit: JP Brahic

This is a brilliant picture that shows the beauty of our Sun along with sunspot AR 1711. In my opinion, one of the things that make this picture particularly fantastic is who took it.

 

It wasn’t taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, nor the ESA’s Very Large Telescope. This picture was taken by an "astrophotographer" in France by the name of J.P. Brahic. He jocularly said, “As spring returns to France, we can finally observe the sun again.” Personally, I had no idea an astrophotographer could take this kind of picture. He used a refractor Astro-Physics 155mm F/D 8.5 telescope equipped with an H-Alpha 1A filter and a Bassler ACA1300 camera to capture this image.

 

I’ll take this moment to say that looking at the sun with the unaided eye is a bad idea and looking at the sun through a telescope without a specialized filter is a really good way to boil your brain.

 

The sunspot itself (since that is what this picture is about) is a spot on the Sun where the magnetic fields have shifted causing a spot on the Sun to cool down – relative to the surrounding environment. This cooling causes the spot to appear black (if you were somehow able to remove the sunspot and suspend it in the night sky, it would shine ten-times brighter than the full moon). Sunspots are a common mechanism for solar flares.


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