Every now and then it’s good to look at something splendid.

This is a closeup of a sunspot. It was taken in 2002 by the Swedish Solar Telescope based on La Palma in the Canary Islands. They did all kinds of image processing on it to factor out the effects of the Earth’s atmosphere on the photography. It’s really worth clicking on the image to bring up the detail.

What you are seeing here are vast rivers of burning plasma hurling themselves downward from the upper levels of the Sun’s surface into the yawning chasm of the magnetic “black hole” at this sunspot’s core. (The black is because it’s cooler down there. For various values of “cooler” that are understandably kind of difficult to get one’s head around.)

The little tick marks around the very edge of the image are so that you can get some sense of scale. The distance between ticks is a thousand kilometers. See that single filament that’s hanging down in the middle?  See where it joins up with the two nearest ones? That’s about the distance from Dublin to Moscow… and it’s about as thick as the distance between Dublin and London. Looking at the width of the dark part there, the umbra — you could pretty much drop North America into that hole and lose it.

If you needed a referent for the term “splendor”: this might do.