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The Sun is the best jack-o-lantern

Published Oct 28th, 2019 11:07PM EDT
sun jack o lantern

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Halloween is rapidly approaching and that means there’s a whole lot of pumpkins meeting their demise at the hands of ambitious carvers. NASA isn’t in the pumpkin carving business, but that doesn’t mean the space agency isn’t celebrating the scariest day of the year. In a timely post on its Facebook page, NASA shared a particularly spooky image of the Sun, and it sure looks familiar.

The image was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory which is currently orbiting Earth. The spacecraft is capable of snapping some truly incredible photos of our nearest star, but this particular image has special significance just days away from Halloween.

Using its suite of powerful sensors, the observatory can see the Sun in ways that our eyes cannot. This image uses ultraviolet light to reveal active regions on the star’s surface, and in this case it looks a whole lot like a big, grinning face.

NASA explains:

The active regions in this image appear brighter because those are areas that emit more light and energy.  They are markers of an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. This image blends together two sets of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths at 171 and 193 Ångströms, typically colorized in gold and yellow, to create a particularly Halloween-like appearance.

The photo was originally shared back in 2014, but it’s one of NASA’s favorites and it’s popped up a number of times in the years since. Meanwhile, the Solar Dynamics Observatory is still hard at work, beaming new images of the Sun back down to Earth where scientists study and monitor the star.

The spacecraft launched back in February of 2010 with a mission timeline of up to ten years. We’re fast approaching the decade mark, but the observatory shows no signs of slowing down. It has captured over 350 million images during its time in space and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.