How a backyard photographer helped create this stunningly detailed shot of the Sun

The detailed photograph of our star stacked together 90,000 shots.
The detailed photograph of our star stacked together 90,000 shots. Copyright Andrew McCarthy & Jason Guenzel
Copyright Andrew McCarthy & Jason Guenzel
By Camille Bello
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Putting together around 90,000 photographs of the Sun, astrophotographers Andrew McCarthy and Jason Guenzel captured a dazzling fiery show.


Last month, the Sun put on a dazzling show, and astrophotographers Andrew McCarthy and Jason Guenzel set up to view it from the front row.

The duo worked over five days to produce an incredibly detailed 140-megapixel image of the burning Sun “to illustrate how wonderfully dynamic and beautiful our star can be”.

The images, shared on the Internet for free with a warning, “DO NOT attempt to point a telescope at the Sun unless you are using proper equipment designed for it…You could easily blind yourself,” caused a stir among space enthusiasts. “Efforts are unmatched!!,” tweeted a follower.

'Fire and Fusion’: A detailed look at our star

The detailed photograph of our star stacked together 90,000 shots.

“This collaboration between Jason and I brought out the Sun in a new light, so to speak, and it's an image I had always visualised but struggled to achieve,” McCarthy told Euronews Next.

Andrew McCarthy and Jason Guenzel
‘Fire and Fusion,’ a detailed look at our starAndrew McCarthy and Jason Guenzel

“Combined, those photos allowed me to see the Sun in incredible detail. In fact, this image is 300 megapixels,” he wrote on his Instagram account.

This is McCarthy’s all-time favourite shot - he calls it a “labour of love.”

The astrophotographer says he spent hours with his solar telescope pointed “at a tall tornado-y-looking thing on the Sun,” which he calculated to be as high as 14 Earths stacked on top of each other.

“I can't imagine a more hellish place,” he tweeted.

Andrew McCarthy and Jason Guenzel
“I can't imagine a more hellish place,” McCarthy tweetedAndrew McCarthy and Jason Guenzel

The journey to stardom

McCarthy has been exploring the universe from his backyard in Arizona, the US, for the past six years. He bought his first telescope in 2017, and “ever since it's been a slow progression of trial and error of learning the techniques of celestial photography,” he said.

“While I've certainly had some guidance from peers, the majority of it was self-taught,” he told Euronews Next.

His journey was propelled by his desire to see the "Great American Eclipse," a total solar eclipse that happened on August 21 2017.

“It was with that goal I bought my first telescope, a 10" Dobsonian designed for visual astronomy,” he said.

“After assembling the base and mounting the telescope, I immediately brought it into my backyard. My light pollution was so bad I could only see a handful of stars,” he recounted in his blog.

By “a stroke of luck,” the "star" he had the telescope pointed at wasn't really a star, but a planet: “Saturn, complete with rings and moons was right there in my eyepiece”.

“Instantly I was overwhelmed with a sense of wonder, and was 9 years old again peering through my Dad's telescope from my childhood backyard,” he wrote.

He experienced what he can only describe “as a life-changing perspective shift”.

“I realised that while I lived my day-to-day life, there was a whole universe out there I was completely ignoring. I wondered what else I could see, so I pointed my telescope to the other bright object over my fence,” he said.


Fast forward to today, and McCarthy's hobby of capturing celestial objects has turned into his career.

“I don't do much else aside from this now. This has so many facets and daily challenges to it. It is a thoroughly engaging and rewarding way to spend my time”.

McCarthy also owns a Youtube channel called Cosmic Background Studios, where he teaches the basics to start exploring the universe from your own backyard.

“I see it as an opportunity to get more people looking up, which I believe will truly change the world in a positive way,” he told Euronews Next.

Andrew McCarthy and Jason Guenzel
The Sun up closeAndrew McCarthy and Jason Guenzel

McCarthy doesn’t plan on stopping his new hobby-turned-career anytime soon, and he even dreams of “perhaps one day” capturing the Earth from the surface of the Moon.

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