Simply put, CGI is the creation of a still or animated visual content using imaging software. There is no traditional camera, no traditional photographer. There is an artist who creates realistic imagery all behind a computer. Possibly in pajamas.

Left: Actual photo of Sun with Nikon P900

Right: NASA photo of Sun

NASA, Always so Extra...


Amateur photography has come a long way, and the latest advancements have allowed everyday people to document detailed images of the sun's surface like never before. While NASA has done impressive work investigating the sun and creating CGI images of its surface, these do not always match what hobbyists can see with their own eyes. This has been especially apparent over the last year, as a growing number of amateur photographers have published images of sunspots that do not match NASA’s official renderings.

At a professional level, sunspot images are captured on a daily basis by ground-based and space-based observatories. Since these are calibrated to the highest standards, they are able to detect the smallest variations in the sun’s surface. However, amateur photographers have been able to capture and share photographs of sunspots that vary noticeably from NASA’s official renderings.

One of the most glaring discrepancies lies in the colors used to represent the various features of sunspots, with NASA’s images often appearing to be oversaturated. Many hobbyists, on the other hand, claim that the colors of these sunspots are more accurate when seen through the lens of an amateur-grade telescope.

Another difference lies in the number of features visible in the images captured by both professionals and amateurs. While NASA’s renderings often depict a wealth of wrinkles and ridges, many of these subtleties can be missed in amateur photos, as the resolution of their cameras often cannot do justice to the intricate details visible.

Finally, some amateur photographers have gone further than just capturing sunspot images and have tried to measure the temperature of different sections of the sun. When these measurements are compared to NASA’s official temperatures, they often reveal significant discrepancies – something that most would likely consider the result of errors in the original data.

Overall, the differences between NASA’s renderings of sunspots and those of amateur photographers should ground us in the reality of how far humanity has come in terms of being able to take and share pictures of the sun’s surface. It also serves as a gentle reminder that, even in this day and age, there is still room for improvement in our understanding of our closest star.