Art and science unite to illuminate the sun's features.
Scientific imagery can be stunning. There's a simple reason why: the same tools to create art are often used in the pursuit of science. One such tool, recognizable to many people as an image effect available on digital photo editing programs, is the gradient filter. When applied to images, the filter sharpens detail by boosting contrast. Scientists use it to accentuate fine structures that might otherwise be lost in the background noise of some scenes. Applying the filter to satellite views of the sun, for example, enhances the giant arcs of solar material in the sun's atmosphere called coronal loops. By studying these loops, scientists can track the structure and movement of magnetic fields that drive the creation of sunspots and giant radiation bursts known as solar flares. Watch the video to see the eye-catching effect this filter has on images of the sun captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite.