Many of the photos we get back from space come either via powerful telescopes in orbit or talented astronauts in the ISS. Another way to explore the cosmos in pictures, however, is to mount a high-powered telescope to a sub-orbital rocket, and fire away. During the trip, the telescope is allotted about 10 minutes to get the photos it’s looking for. And lest you think 10 minutes isn’t enough, a couple of weeks ago NASA used this exact method to capture the clearest ever images of the Sun’s corona.
The pictures were taken by a 460lbd behemoth known as the High Resolution Coronal Imager (or Hi-C). The telescope had a 10 minute window before parachuting gently back to Earth, and in that time it snapped 150 16-megapixel photos of a particularly active sunspot in ultraviolet. The resulting pictures show the corona in almost 5X the magnification of the previous best pics from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. We recommend that people interested in seeing our big hot ball of fire up-close click the play button and set it to HD.