Astrophotographer Jason Guenzel has captured one of his most detailed solar images in his years of photographing “the curiosities of the universe.” It’s a stunning photo that reveals the twisted “surface” of our Sun.
“I’ve had a lifelong interest in humanity’s exploration into the universe around us and, along those lines, my professional background is in aerospace engineering,” Guenzel tells PetaPixel. “In recent years, the technology to enable astrophotography has become much more accessible to the amateur. About 10 years ago, I began very modestly and slowly refined my gear and techniques to improve the results.”
Guenzel’s new photo of the Sun came about after he became interested in our solar system’s star and put together a dedicated telescopic rig for Sun photos. The rig consists of a $980 Explore Scientific AR152 telescope, a $130 Astronomik L1 UV/IR cut filter, a $1,200 Daystar Quark Chromosphere eyepiece, an $899 ASI174MM-Cool camera, and a $1,675 Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro equatorial mount. The total cost comes in at about $4,900.
“The scope has an internal filter which enables the visualization of the hydrogen plasma in the outer solar atmosphere,” Guenzel says. “Without such filtration, this layer is invisible to us, but looking through it, we can see the twisted nature of the magnetic field which drives complex structure and detail.”
Photographing the Sun requires overcoming problems presented by Earth, and image stacking is a technique astrophotographers turn to.
“Solar imaging is a constant battle with conditions and the blurring caused by our atmosphere is perhaps the largest obstacle to overcome,” Guenzel says. “To combat this, thousands of images are captured and then compiled.
“This image began as a high-framerate live video spanning around 30 seconds. The resulting frames of the video are graded and only the best are stacked together to yield the highest quality master.”
Once the master image is obtained, Guenzel sharpened it to reconstruct the details.
“Through my work with processing these types of pictures, I’ve developed various methods of contrast enhancement to visualize the magnetic field lines within the chromosphere of the Sun,” the photographer says. “Though the technique to capture each image is largely the same, I consider each piece to be quite unique. I tend to let the details contained within every one drive the decisions and the final look of the image.
“In fact, the camera and filter combination yields a monochrome image that is far removed from anything the human eye could perceive. So, as in many types of photography, there is a component of artistic interpretation present in every shot.”
When it comes to giving advice to photographers looking to follow in Guenzel’s footsteps, his primary piece of advice is a warning.
“I would be remiss not to mention that this type of photography can be very dangerous,” he says. “Do not EVER point a telescope at the Sun without taking proper precautions, knowing exactly how to handle the energy collected and focused. This equipment is capable of causing permanent bodily harm and/or fire.
“For those still interested after that disclaimer, there are many resources available and perhaps the best way is to talk to someone doing it and learn from them. Astrophotographers love to help.”
Back in 2020, Guenzel made headlines after he managed to capture the birth of a supernova in before-and-after photos. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram.