This hydrogen-alpha image of the Sun was taken at the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory in Washington, DC on May 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm EDT.
This view of the atmosphere of the Sun shows dark sunspots, bright plages (clouds of gas above sunspots), and arches of gas called prominences visible around the edge of the Sun.
At the time of this image, the sunspot group on the left edge of the Sun, AR1748, had just unleashed a flurry of four powerful X-class solar flares in less than 48 hours. This was the most activity seen on the Sun in at least a year. The current sunspot cycle is anticipated to peak in late 2013, after which scientists expect that solar activity will gradually decrease for several years.
Compare this image to the view of the Sun two days later. The images were prepared with different colors and contrast. Look for the same features in both image, and note the effect of the Sun's rotation (once per month).
Telescope: Lunt 100mm hydrogen-alpha
Camera: Lumenera SKYnyx 2-2M
Image Number: WEB13058-2013
Credit: Photo by Geneviève de Messières and Adam Boehley, Smithsonian Public Observatory Project
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