You’re looking at a 300-megapixel photo of our Sun. Astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy used a specially modified telescope, taking over 150,000 individual photos and combing them into this magnificent image.
“It took about 10 hours to stack all the data, and another 3-4 hours to get it from a raw stack to the final image,” McCarthy said via email.
McCarthy uses a modified Explore Scientific AR127 telescope, and employed a quick capture technique to take all the images, each one a 2.1 megapixel 16bit image. The filters and processing shows what can be seen in the chromosphere of the Sun, the second most outer layer of our star.
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McCarthy took the images from his backyard in Arizona on November 29, 2021.
The image is called “Fire and Fusion,” and it highlights the chaotic nature of our Sun. This writhing ball of plasma has “planet-sized streams that snake up from the surface, dwarfed by looming prominences and filaments,” McCarthy writes on his website. “Blinding bursts of energy stem from areas of heightened magnetic activity, pushing and pulling on the solar surface and creating fascinating patterns in the atmosphere.”
On Twitter, McCarthy explained that this is a partially inverted image which clarifies why just the edge is bright while the inner part of the image is darker.
“With this type of filtration I’m using, the atmosphere actually blocks sunlight, so it gets darker towards the edges,” he said. “That makes limb features harder to see, so this processing method is used.”
And McCarthy says a filter is imperative for any type of views of the Sun.
“I strongly recommend not attempting this sort of thing unless you know what you’re doing,” he said. “People have gone blind attempting to view the Sun through a telescope. Mine is designed to purge the intense heat generated from the Sun, and precisely tuned to only show a specific band of light to allow for the details of the solar chromosphere to come through.”
You can see more of McCarthy’s fantastic imaging work on Twitter and InstaGram, and his website has imagery available for download and prints for purchase.
Lead image caption: A 300 megapixel photo of our Sun, taken by using a specially modified telescope, compiling over 150,000 individual images. Credit and copyright: Andrew McCarthy.