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Solar Gallery


An X-ray image of the Sun reveals the complex structure of magnetic fields because the plasma is closely tied to magnetic field lines. (Image made by the Soft-X-Ray telescope of the YOHKOH satellite 1992)

Activated filament

TRACE 171Å image, showing emission from gas at 1 million degrees, of Active Region 9077 on 19 July 2000, at 23:30UT. The image (rotated over 90 degrees, so North is to the left) shows a filament in the process of lifting off from the surface of the Sun. The dark matter is relatively cool, around 20,000 degrees, while hot kernels and threads around it are at a million degrees or more. From footpoint to peak, this rapidly evolving structure measures 75,000 miles. Also the Astronomy Picture of the Day for 9 August 2000.

Activated filament

A quiet day on the Sun. No spectacular flares or mass ejections, no odd filaments moving, and nevertheless the image of AR 9169, with the much smaller AR 9167 just ahead of it, is very pretty. This image was taken with TRACE in the 171Å passband, showing the bright emission of the gas at about 1 million degrees, with the cooler material around 10,000 degrees showing up as dark, absorbing structures.

Coronal Loops

This image of coronal loops over the eastern limb of the Sun was taken in the TRACE 171Å pass band, characteristic of plasma at 1 MK, on November 6, 1999, at 02:30 UT. The image was rotated over +90 degrees.

Coronal null

These are snapshots of Active Regions 9149 (north) and 9147 (south) observed with TRACE in the 171Å passband (top), showing bright material around 1 million degrees, and in the white-light passband (using a smaller field of view). The 171Å image, taken at 10:17UT on 4 September 2000, shows the corona between two sunspots of equal polarity. Between the spots, the loops meet and are deflected sideways, forming a so-called null point of the magnetic field. The leftmost half of the field shows up clearly, but the rightmost half has a different temperature and is only vaguely visible.

Coronal null

This stunning image shows remarkable and mysterious details near the dark central region of a planet-sized sunspot in one of the sharpest views ever of the surface of the Sun. Just released, the picture was made using the Swedish Solar Telescope now in its first year of operation on the Canary Island of La Palma.

Along with features described as hairs and canals are dark cores visible within the bright filaments that extend into the sunspot, representing previously unknown and unexplored solar phenomena.

The filaments' newly revealed dark cores are seen to be thousands of kilometers long but only about 100 kilometers wide.

Resolving features 100 kilometers wide or less is a milestone in solar astronomy and has been achieved here using sophisticated adaptive optics, digital image stacking, and processing techniques to counter the blurring effect of Earth's atmosphere.

At optical wavelengths, these images are sharper than even current space-based solar observatories can produce.

Recorded on 15 July 2002, the sunspot shown is the largest of the group of sunspots cataloged as solar active region AR 10030.