NASA’s Smiling Sun Photo Is Actually a Bit Ominous

A new photo of the Sun is making the rounds, but it may be more ominous than adorable. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory images the Sun using ultraviolet light to see details about solar winds, solar flares, and other events that could affect us here on Earth. So while many people just see a smiling face, like the cute Teletubbies sun baby, it could harken a solar storm headed our way. The dark areas are called coronal holes and are caused by solar winds that gust energy out into space. So even though it’s smiling, it could be more like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters, ominously threatening Earth while keeping the grin on its face.

An ultraviolet image of the sun with dark areas that look like eyes and a smiling face

The Solar Dynamics Observatory is an autonomous spacecraft orbiting Earth that captures images of the Sun almost continuously. Other amazing shots includes one where the Sun looks like a jack-o’-lantern, or a Sun Pumpkin, and makes the rounds every Halloween. The observatory has also photographed massive solar eruptions. There’s even an amazing 10 year solar time lapse of observations that shows just how volatile the Sun is.

We saw this most recent Sun picture thanks to DesignTAXI. The Twitter thread above features many photoshopped contributions from solar enthusiasts. There’s Teletubbies and Ghostbusters, of course, but also plenty of others. Since it was in the week leading up to Halloween, people couldn’t help but compare it to a jack-o’-lantern. Now I can’t unsee it. Who knew just how much our Sun could look like a pumpkin just by adding some grooves and a stem? 

Thankfully, Earth escaped any negative effects of the solar winds for now. As The Guardian reported, the storm would have hit us a few days ago. This time around, the cute Sun picture just led to some fun images and extra Halloween spirit.

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.

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