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Incredible astrophotography could be the clearest photo of the sun ever taken

the fires of sol
(Image credit: © @cosmic_background)

American astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy has captured a composite photograph of the sun that uses over 100,000 individual shots. In April 2021, Andrew set up a telescope in his back garden in Elk Grove, California and set about creating the composite. 

This incredibly detailed picture of the sun was taken using an ultra-sharp telescope snapping away at a rate of 100 photos per second. The solar telescope he used had a focal length of 4000mm, which provided 10x more magnification than the telescope he had previously been using.

Read more: Best telescopes for astrophotography

Using a technique called ‘lucky imaging’, Andrew stacked the best frames together from each session to help reduce the effects of the atmosphere. In the final image, the sun glows a deep, dramatic red color and plasma can be seen bursting out at the bottom. At 230MP, this huge high-res image shows sharp details on the surface of the sun that aren't seen very often. 

Andrew’s Instagram page, @cosmic_background, has gained over 431K followers since he began taking photos of the sun and moon three years ago. In the original post, he said, “I processed this one a little differently to past shots, hoping to capture the spirit of how it looks through a solar telescope. The difference is you can’t see the stars, they were added in processing as an aesthetic choice”.

The sun is 93 million miles away from earth, which makes the visible masses of plasma suspended in the solar atmosphere by the sun’s magnetic field even more impressive.

When creating the composite, Andrew told The Metro, "I wasn’t sure if the image would turn out so well, as stitching together a large photo of the sun comes with unique challenges that I’ve never dealt with before. But I will definitely be producing more of these".

To see more of Andrew’s work or to purchase a print of 'The Fires of Sol' head to Andrew’s website

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Hannah Rooke

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specialises in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylised product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.