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NASA's Gradient Sun As Art
Science and art techniques are often quite similar, and one may inform the other or be improved based on lessons from the other arena. One such case is a technique known as a "gradient filter" - an option available in photo-editing programs. Gradients are, in fact, a mathematical description that highlights the places of greatest physical change in space. Scientists use gradient filters to enhance contrast, using them to accentuate fine structures that might otherwise be lost in the background noise. On the sun, for example, scientists wish to study a phenomenon known as coronal loops, which are giant arcs of solar material constrained to travel along that particular path by the magnetic fields in the sun's atmosphere. Observations of the loops can help researchers understand what's happening with the sun's complex magnetic fields, fields that can also power great eruptions on the sun such as solar flares or coronal mass ejections. These images from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center show an unfiltered image from the sun next to one that has been processed using a gradient filter.
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