This Isn't Abstract Art, It's the Sun

It might look more like abstract art than anything else, but you're actually looking at a series of observations of the Sun.


Captured by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), this data was recorded to study the evolution of reconnection jets—streams of plasma that loop out an back into a star—on a small patch of the Sun's surface. The ESA explains what you can see:

The image shows 60 frames taken with the ultraviolet spectrometer SUMER on SOHO over 10 minutes. The individual frames were taken every 10 seconds, so each row of snapshots corresponds to almost three and a half minutes of observations.

Each frame shows a spectrum of the light coming from a small patch on the solar disc: the height of each frame measures 84 000 km, which is about a sixteenth of the Sun's diameter.

The bright red and yellow regions in each frame correspond to boundaries between different cells in the granular pattern of the Sun. In the first few frames of the series, the shape of the central bright region is roughly vertical, a sign that the underlying boundary was in a quiet state.

Look further into the series, though—at the start of the second row—and you'll notice that the bright region stretches toward the right. That, right there, is a jet of plasma receding at a speed of about 100 km/s. Yikes. [ESA]



AAARGGHH. Blinded by the light.