Stare directly into the terrifying black heart of the SunS

This image is either a closeup look at a dark sunspot moving across the Sun, or a particularly fiery view of the gates of hell. Either way, this is clearly somewhere that's dangerous to even look at, let alone visit.

Credit for the image goes to the Swedish Solar Telescope, located on the Canary Islands. It's not easy creating an image like this — to get such a high resolution view of the surface of the Sun, astronomers had to use a mix of "sophisticated adaptive optics, digital image stacking, and other processing techniques" to remove the blurring effect of the Earth's atmosphere and the fierce radiation emanating from the Sun.

I'd say the results were worth it. Taken in 2002, the image is a terrific closeup view of the Sun, and it's a great look at just how otherworldly sunspots really are. These black regions are actually much colder than the surrounding regions of the Sun, the result of a sudden intense spike in magnetic activity within the spot.

To give some sense of scale, the tiny bubble-like objects at the top of the image are each about a thousand kilometers across. These are known as granules, and they're short-lived convection cells of gas, each lasting about eight to twenty minutes before dissipating.

Via NASA.