When you stare at the sun it just looks like pain. But when the New Solar Telescope (NST) does, it can catch glimpses of truly mesmerising solar activity, and all without going blind. Here, for example, is the most precise picture of a sunspot ever taken, in all its flaming glory. It's like a solar black hole in a field of molten stained glass.
Located at California's Big Bear Solar Observatory, the NST rocks a whopping 1.5-metre mirror and can zoom in to see features on the sun that are a mere 48km wide. That's hardly a speck as far as the sun's concerned. This super precise image shows details like we've never seen them before, specifically the subtle, twisty smears around the spot's black centre, where the sun's magnetic field is freaking out.
Until its successor — the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) — is finished in a few years, the NST holds the crown of largest clear aperture solar telescope in the world. But more importantly, its solar photography is second to none. [New Jersey Institute of Technology via IBT]