You're looking at the most complete photograph yet taken of the sun's atmosphere -- and it reveals complex patterns of expanding bubbles and mushrooms of matter, which are thought to cause the solar winds that the star spits out toward the rest of the solar system.
The image was captured using a high-resolution eclipse-imaging technique by a team from the Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic. By superimposing 60 separate photographs of solar eclipses, they were able to create a never-before seen view of the sun, showing the entire region from surface to corona in the same high resolution. In contrast, older images were only capable of showing one of the regions at a time in such detail.
The image reveals patterns that are incredibly similar to smoke rings: much smaller than the flares or coronal mass ejections that often make the news, they're known as prominences. Until now, they were thought to have a very minor effect on the Sun's atmosphere, but these images -- depicting bubbles and mushrooms made by the small ejections -- suggest that they pack more force than we thought. In turn, the researchers think that these small-scale events could be a major driving forces behind the sun's winds. [New Scientist]
Picture: Miloslav Druckmüller