NASA Snaps Portrait of Sun ‘Smiling’ Down on Us Like a Big Fiery Goof


Our local star seems to be taking the “sun is smiling down on us” phrase literally. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory snapped a portrait of the sun last week that makes it look like it has two dark eyes, a swirling round nose and a big happy drin.

“Say cheese!” NASA tweeted along with the eye-catching image.

There’s a science explanation behind the smile. “Today, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the sun ‘smiling,'” NASA said. “Seen in ultraviolet light, these dark patches on the sun are known as coronal holes and are regions where fast solar wind gushes out into space.”  

SDO launched in 2010 and has been hanging out in space and keeping an eye on the sun’s activities ever since. It’s used to study space weather and track the star’s flares and outbursts.

It was a busy week for the sun. On Sunday, NASA posted an update with a video showing its activities, including several solar flares and a couple dozen coronal mass ejections (outbursts of solar material). This sort of vigorous space weather can have an impact on Earth, creating beautiful aurora lightshows and sometimes disrupting communications systems.

Twitter users saw the grinning sun image and were quick to spot a resemblance to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council in the UK jumped in with a reworked version of the image that turns it into a happy Halloween pumpkin. 

You might recall another fortuitous SDO image from 2014 when the sun sported a very Halloween-y jack-o’-lantern face. The more recent face-like shape is more derpy and less spooky. 

It’s nice to think of our local star as happy and benevolent, even though it likes to spit out potentially disruptive solar flares from time to time. Service with a smile.