Staring at the Sun

Now there is something you do not do everyday: looking at the Sun. But other than gazing into the blinding light, have you ever tried to take a picture? And what would it look like? Together with a friend, we decided to give it a go. Both equipped with a camera and a camera-phone, we aimed up into the sky. The results were not quite what we expected…

You will want to look at these pictures in full screen (click on them) to appreciate how photographically deformed our star actually is, with our pretty customary equipment. This first picture, was taken with an iPhone. If you leave the resolution as it is, you may think that the Sun looks like a burning ball in the sky, which it is. But now click on the image, and you will see that it is actually a hexagon. The Sun is a hexagon! If you think about how that can happen, you must suppose that this deformation is the shutter of the camera which leaves its mark in such an extreme shot. However awkward that is, our other shots did not share the same quirk. We found others…

Before you think that the hexagon-print is a camera-phone issue, with it having to fit into a minuscule gadget and all that, bear with us. So out comes the HTC Wildfire to see what happens there with its 5 megapixel camera. We point it up to the sky and … who would have guessed – you can see the rings of Saturn around the Sun! Of course, a picture of the Sun is not the kind of image you would expect a camera-phone to be able to deal with, but it is a pretty neat effect. I am not sure why the picture comes out like that – are the “rings” the last cracks still open when the shutter closes? I would presume so.

It was time to try a compact. We had a Panasonic Lumix at our disposal. Have a good look at the picture to the left here. Admittedly we no longer have a hexagon in the sky, nor a Saturn-type star with rings, but if you look well, you could say it is worse! The Sun now looks like a lemon! It is squashed in the middle and little points sticking out on the extremities. This is probably the biggest deformation of reality from the batch we tried here… there is now no more time to waste.

Our last chance was taking out the heavy guns – a Sony DSLR with a dark filter. Now the Sun looks like a haze in the night-time. Admittedly, a haze is better than what we saw before, but with the dark filter it is almost as if we are looking at a bright full moon. But at least, you might think, it is not lemon. Nor is it shiny Saturn. And thankfully, it is not a hexagon either. But if we learnt anything today, it would be that if you do want to take a picture of the sun, you might need heavier equipment than you have.


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