This astonishing image is actually a close-up of the sun, showing the fiery jets of fast-moving superheated gas that constantly burst from the solar surface.

The twisting tubes, known as spicules, are around 300 miles in diameter and spurt upwards from the sun at supersonic speeds of 45,000mph. They can be likened to pipes of gas, each as wide as a small country and as long as half the Earth.

The entire image covers a relatively tiny proportion of the sun’s surface,  just  65,000 square miles. It was captured by Kevin Reardon, a space scientist at the Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri in Firenze, Italy.

Awayf rom the spicules, the small, round dots in the image are the signature of sound waves buffeting the chromosphere from below.
At any one time there are around 60,000 to 70,000 active spicules on the sun; an individual spicule typically reaches around 5,000 miles above its surface.
Time-sequenced images have recently shown that spicules last about five minutes, starting out as tall tubes of rapidly rising gas but eventually fading as the gas peaks and falls back down to the sun.
What determines the creation and dynamics of spicules is still not fully understood.

Mr Reardon who captured this image and who is affiliated with the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s University Belfast, said of his picture:
‘What is unique about this image is that we have managed to get high-resolution, not the very highest possible at this wavelength, but close, over an extended field of view.’
‘This is just a small piece of the full sun. It gives us an idea of the details of the individual structures, but also how they are then all interconnected or intertwined or woven together.’
He explained this is what lies between the solar photosphere, where sunspots can be seen, and the corona, with its magnetic arches stretching outward.
He added: ‘It’s the enigmatic solar chromosphere, the region of the solar atmosphere where the magnetic field starts to dominate, forming long, thin, dense structures.’

via dailymail