It’s Nerdoween time again, hobgoblins and ghouls, and to celebrate the spirit of the season, let’s carve those James Webb Space Telescope jack-o’-lanterns and reshare one of NASA’s timeless pictures. It’s the “Pumpkin Sun” photo from the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft in 2014, which makes our fiery fusion reactor in the sky look like a blazing jack-o’-lantern. The eyes, nose, and wicked mouth are all there upon the Sun’s countenance of plasma, and it even looks like it has little, flaming ears.
The space agency tweets the seasonally appropriate Sun picture during spooky season, noting that it’s an ultraviolet image that shows the “active regions of our home star.” In a post that offers high-res downloads of the picture, NASA notes the active regions that make up the facial components of the Sun-o’-lantern are brighter than the rest of the Sun’s surface because they’re emitting more light and energy thanks to “an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the sun’s atmosphere….”
Note that the Pumpkin Sun picture has been colorized in gold and yellow to help emphasize the Halloween vibes—we can’t see ultraviolet light with our limited people peepers, so the image has to be colorized somehow so we can see it. (And yes, we’re aware that some folks with Aphakia claim to be able to see ultraviolet light, but we’re talking about Nerdoween here so let’s not dwell on that.)
Also check out NASA’s Halloween-themed exoplanet posters, including a “Zombie Worlds” poster and a “Rains of Terror” poster, which are available as high-res images here. The temporarily spookified space agency also released a movie “trailer” dubbed Galaxy of Horrors, which “reveals the sinister science behind real worlds we’ve discovered in our galaxy.” NASA’s series of sci-fi horror movie posters based on real science also expanded to include black holes, dark energy, and roasting planets.
Whether you make your own space-themed jack-o’-lantern or just appreciate the Sun-o’-lantern in the sky, NASA can help put some nerd into Nerdoween.
Originally published October 30, 2019.