Photographer’s 400-Megapixel Image of the Sun is Made up of 100K Photos

High resolution image of the sun

Backyard astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy has released his highest-ever resolution image of the Sun — a 400-megapixel image made up of over 100,000 photos.

McCarthy tells PetaPixel that he was shooting all day on December 12 but it was a 30-minute period in the early afternoon when the temperature of high altitude air currents changed to create a more consistent refraction index thus improving the clarity and stability of fine details when looking through miles of atmosphere at Earth’s nearest star.

“In that time I captured 3,000 photos on each panel of a 40-panel mosaic, well over 100,000 individual 16-bit photos,” he explains. “The camera was shooting at about 80 frames per second during this process, so it was captured like a high-framerate video.”

400-megapixel image of the Sun
The Star of System Sol

With a ridiculous amount of data, McCarthy tasked his computer with the mammoth job of sorting the photos into a coherent image.

“I used a method called ‘drizzling’ that I usually use for planet photos, where the software attempted to determine data ‘between’ the pixels to simulate a higher focal length,” he explains.

“It increases the resolution tremendously if the photo is a high enough quality, but is an extremely computer-intensive process.

“Once my software spat out the stacked photos, I assembled them by hand into the final high-resolution mosaic.”

Close crop of the Sun
A close crop of McCarthy’s 400-megapixel image.
Close crop of the Sun
A zoomable version is available here.

Bigger, Better, Brighter

McCarthy is no stranger to a super high-resolution image of the Sun; PetaPixel has covered similar projects before. But this latest image is his biggest one yet.

“I’m always determined to push the limits of what’s possible with my equipment,” says the Arizona-based photographer.

“In this case, the air was steady enough for me to get great detail across the entire surface, something that I struggle with in my location.

“I find these high-resolution photos of celestial bodies are great for capturing the imagination of people who wouldn’t ordinarily think to look at them, and inspiring more people to look up is my mission in life.”

crop of the sun

McCarthy used a 5-inch reflector modified for solar use and an AR127 telescope, Baader D-ERF filter, Daystar Quark Chromosphere Filter, ZWO ADC atmospheric dispersion corrector, and an ASI174MM camera (modified with a heat sink). The Sun was tracked using an EQ6-R Pro.

McCarthy has named his creation The Star of System Sol and it is available as a limited print on his website.

More of McCarthy’s work can be found on his Instagram, X, Facebook, and website.

Image credits: All photos by Andrew McCarthy.