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The Sun, Ready For Its Closeup: Who You Callin' A Dwarf?

Oct 29, 2010

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Bill Chappell

An image of the sun taken by Buffalo, N.Y., photographer Alan Friedman has become an Internet sensation, thanks to the massive image's eye-popping amount of detail. Friedman tells Wired that his portrait is an homage to Halloween.

Friedman attached a hydrogen-alpha filter to his telescope to improve the visibility of the sun's surface detail. After all, the sun burns through 600 million tons of hydrogen a second.

The images were originally black and white. Friedman added some color, choosing orange to give the average earthling a sense of familiarity, and to make what he calls "a Halloween image."

You can check out the Wired interview for more on his technique. As I was reminded doing some fact-checking, our sun's light is actually white, not yellow or orange — the colors that the light takes on as it passes through Earth's atmosphere. Still, it's classified as a yellow dwarf star, so what can you do?

Over at his web site, Friedman has a huge version of the image, with some closeup shots of the surface.

Believe it or not, NPR has full coverage of Halloween — here are a couple of my favorites. Check them out if you can't get enough pumpkin in your life:

Keeping with the photography line, Claire O'Neill and Mito Habe-Evans of NPR Multimedia succeeded in turning a pumpkin into a camera. I can attest to the weeks and weeks of work that went into this.

And in Ukraine, the pumpkin is dreaded. "An old tradition held that a would-be suitor would visit a woman's house to propose. If the answer was yes, there was family toasting and celebration. If no, the poor guy was silently handed a pumpkin," as David Greene reports.

Then there's this post from the All Tech Considered blog, about people carving elaborate Star Wars-themed jack-o-lanterns. If you want to do that yourself, get started — it can take more than 10 hours.

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