Guess How This Mind-Blowing, 81 Megapixel Photo of the Sun Was Shot

They said don’t stare at the Sun, but we bet you’re going to stare at this incredibly detailed photo for a long time.

Astrophotography is cool enough already, with photos of the Moon, star trails, and the Milky Way Galaxy. But, there’s a lot more to it. Sacramento-based photographer Andrew McCarthy shows us what else the genre has in store for those who want to go to the next level: photographing the Sun. His best example to date is a jaw dropping 81 Megapixel photo illustrating the Sun’s gorgeous surface texture and activity in incredible detail.

We spotted McCarthy’s awesome snap on Reddit, where he also shared how he took the shot and some cool science facts about the Sun. His photo shows a relatively calm solar surface (called spicules) because “our Sun is still in a period of reduced activity so there are still frequent days without any sunspots, prominences, or filaments of any kind.” To take photos of the Sun, a special solar telescope is needed. This shot is actually a composite of around 3,000 images put together using special software. He explains more below:

“This was done with a special solar scope that focuses on a specific band of light- (Hydrogen alpha), and can get details by targeting a section of visible light just .5 Angstroms wide (an angstrom is one hundred millionth of a centimeter- so it’s used to measure tiny things, such as light waves). The scope I used is fairly pricey for an amateur, but you can get decent results with a cheaper one as well.

“This image was taken from my backyard in Sacramento, California. This was taken using a special solar telescope and camera, and involved taking around 3,000 images and combining them with special software designed to sharpen images that are taken through miles of atmosphere. The real color is a pinkish red due to the nature of the light put off in the hydrogen-alpha wavelength, but since the camera I use is monochrome it allows me to have some fun with colors in post-processing.”

Apart from the stellar shot, McCarthy also put together 150,000 individual images for this footage of a solar prominence he tracked for about 24 hours:

If you’re interested in photographing the sun, Amateur Astrophotography has a detailed explanation worth checking out. Make sure you also head to Andrew McCarthy’s Instagram to learn more about his setup, see more of his astrophotography, and view some behind the scenes of his shoots. He also has prints and downloads available here.


Photo used with permission from Andrew McCarthy