The image: An astronomically-inclined photographer has taken a rather unbelievable shot of the surface of the sun. (Check out the full photo, below.) Alan Friedman took the picture using a 90mm telescope and a filter that allows only a sliver of light through. The texture visible on the sun is swirling gas, and what looks like a puff of smoke on the left of the image is leftover material from a erupting sunspot.
The reaction: Here's "a side of the sun that I've never seen before," says Casey Chan at Gizmodo. Doesn't it seem as if you could reach out and touch the "milky peach fuzz" on its surface? This beautiful image almost makes you forget the "violence and sheer magnitude" of the sun, says Phil Plait at Discover. The mass in a typical prominence — the smoky swirl on the left of the image – "can easily top 10 billion tons." And see that spot beneath the prominence, "just to the right of the bigger, speckly one"? That tiny dark patch is about twice the size of earth. Examine the image (©Alan Friedman, avertedimagination.com) here: