Gallery: The Active Sun as Art

The Sun as Art

Steele Hill/SDO/Goddard Flight Center/NASA

The Sun as Art traveling exhibit presents a new way of looking at the sun as seen from space, based on images captured by NASA's premier solar mission, SDO (the Solar Dynamics Observatory). Steele Hill, SOHO/STEREO/SDO Media Specialist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, created this gallery of stunning images. (All images provided to SPACE.com courtesy of Steele Hill.)

Sun as Art 3D

Steele Hill/SDO/Goddard Flight Center/NASA

With this 3D effect, the sun really does seem to be floating in space, while the arcing loops above the brighter active regions can be seen rising up above the solar surface.

Shuffle the Deck

Steele Hill/SDO/Goddard Flight Center/NASA

These seven images cascading around were all taken at almost the same time. Each one shows different features of the sun in different wavelengths of light at varying heights and temperatures.

Stonehenge Sunrise

Steele Hill/SDO/Goddard Flight Center/NASA

Stonehenge in England is a mammoth stone and timber structure built 2700 years ago over hundreds of years. It is speculated that the builders oriented some of the structure to mark astronomical events like equinoxes.

Blue Bayou Sunset

Steele Hill/SDO/Goddard Flight Center/NASA

If one were to observe the sun rising over a bayou or ocean in extreme ultraviolet light and apply a blue filter, it might look a little like this. The active sun is peppered with magnetic field lines and active regions busily connecting and reconnecting over its surface.

Orange You Glad to See the Sun?

Steele Hill/SDO/Goddard Flight Center/NASA

Though very orange-like in appearance, a "dopplergram" image of the sun measures millions of subtle motions on the sun's surface that helps us learn about movement and structure inside the sun. It takes supercomputers to handle the calculations.

Making Detailed Connections

Steele Hill/SDO/Goddard Flight Center/NASA

When viewed in profile, the intricate series of looping magnetic field lines appear graceful and well designed. In fact these very hot and energetic connections emerged from beneath the surface where powerful magnetic forces are engaged in a huge tug of war.

Fire Breather

Steele Hill/SDO/Goddard Flight Center/NASA

The plain blue disk blocks out the sun and the area right around it. Areas of white indicate the greatest intensity of matter; the reds somewhat less; blues, even less. An extreme ultraviolet image of the sun (blue) was superimposed on the foreground to give a sense of scale.

Magnetic Slinkies

Steele Hill/SDO/Goddard Flight Center/NASA

These detailed and tight coils of particles spiraling along magnetic field lines above an active region look a lot like Slinky toys. However, solar physicists would explain that after a solar flare these loops are busily recreating new magnetic re-connections after the magnetic field was disrupted.

Huge Prominence

Steele Hill/SDO/Goddard Flight Center/NASA

A single, gigantic prominence blossomed out from the sun on the first day that SDO began taking images. It reached out over 25 times the size of Earth. Prominences are unstable clouds of cooler gas tethered above the sun's surface by magnetic forces.

Majestic Blast

Steele Hill/SDO/Goddard Flight Center/NASA

An extreme ultraviolet image of the sun itself was enlarged and superimposed on a larger background image. The background image from the SOHO spacecraft shows a widely spreading coronal mass ejection (CME) as it blasts more than a billion tons of matter out into space at over a million miles per hour.

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at community@space.com.