The face of our star

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Nov. 10 2011 2:55 PM

The face of our star

The other day, when I found out that the giant sunspot cluster Active Region 1339 was coming around the Sun's limb, one of the first things I did was email Alan Friedman and ask if he had plans to get pictures of it. His images of the Sun have graced this blog many times before (see Related Posts, below), and I knew he'd get a great shot.

A little while later he sent me the picture I posted yesterday, and I added the Earth to it for comparison. I didn't like defacing his picture, but I thought putting our Earth there lent it some scale.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death from the Skies!  

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So just now I got another note from him: he told me he had created a full disk image of the Sun, and when I saw it, well, wow:

Yeah, wow. [Click to gdwarfenate.]

You can see the sunspots cluster to the right of center of the Sun's face, and it's still going strong. There's been less storm activity than I expected from this, but the Sun is always surprising. And of course there are still a few days before the cluster slips behind the Sun's edge, too.

You can also see lots of other sunspots, as well as some prominences -- towering pillars and arcs of material -- on the Sun's edge. I'm also endlessly fascinated by the twisted, roiling surface of the Sun as well. Alan used an Hα filter here, which isolates light from warm hydrogen and really shows the detail of the solar surface (which is otherwise overwhelmed by light at all other colors).

If I had the time (and the wherewithal), I'd love to set up a solar telescope and take images like this. But I don't, and that's OK, because Alan and a whole legion of others can do it, and I'll be happy to look at 'em.

Image credit: Alan Friedman.



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