Spectacular sunspots

They always tell you not to point your camera toward the sun if you want good pictures, but every now and then you get lucky. Take a look at this APOD picture of sunspots in ultraviolet light: APOD: 2006 June 11 – Sunspot Loops in Ultraviolet

It’s incredible to think that this is what that bright thing up in the sky looks like all the time (assuming you had great big ultraviolet eyeballs). Ordinarily, astronomical photos of the sun tend to flatten the solar disk, but somehow this picture makes it look like you’re coming in for a landing. It looks like the very pit of Hell.

Solar closeups are getting better and better these days, and, relative to snapshots of dusty garbage heaps on old asteroids, they always seem to suggest a profound and dynamic malevolence. I know Mr. Golden Sun is our friend, but this picture reminds me of Sauron’s lidless eye. I love the tiny Earth shown to provide a sense of the monstrous scale of the sunspot. Here’s some more good stuff from SPACE.com, complete with labels and arrows indicating where the lovely twists, canals, and hairs can be found. Which is to say BIG HOT APOCALYPTIC twists, canals, and hairs.

Naturally, real scientists need to distance themselves from this kind of emotional response. Even so, sometimes a scientific debate can benefit from a show of emotion. Al Gore is making waves right now by getting people rattled by the case for global warming. But did you know that, our problems aside, the sun has got a nasty case of solar warming? I feel strangely comforted by the fact that something is going wrong somewhere in the solar system, and it’s NOT OUR FAULT.