The smiling star might not be so much as “smiling”…. guess you could call it… astonished. Yeah, it’s an astonished star. Hopefully that makes sense.

But, if you’re wondering, yes that picture is a compilation of various stars in the universe. How and by whom were these photos taken by? In this post, we’ll be taking a look at the different missions and devices used to capture the glorious photos of stars.


The SOHO, or the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, is a international collaboration project between ESA and NASA to study the Sun from its deep core to the outer corona. Launched on December 2, 1995, the SOHO spacecraft was built in Europe by an industry team led by Matra Marconi Space. There are twelve instruments on board, which were provided by European and American scientists. Thanks to the great engineers, we are able to study the Sun.

The green star making up the mouth of the smiling-ish star was taken on May 12, 1997. It shows a shock wave expanding across the solar disk from the site of the origin of a coronal mass ejection. These images were recorded by EIT in the emission lines of Fe XII near 195 A.

The red star making up the eyes of the face star is an image of the sun showing an eruptive prominence in the resonance line of ionized helium. This picture was taken on the 26th of August, 1997. The material in this eruptive prominence is at temperatures of 60,000 – 80,000 K.


TIMED, or the Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and Dynamics mission studies the influences of the sun on humans on the regions of Earth’s atmosphere. TIMED focuses on a portion of Earth’s atmospheric region located approximately 60-180 kilometers above the surface. The TIMED is the first mission to obtain a global picture of the MLTI region, which scientists need to better understand our upper atmosphere.


STEREO, or the Solar TErrestrail RElations Observatory is the third mission in NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Probes program (STP). The mission has provided a revolutionary view of the Sun and Earth System. It has traced the flow of energy and matter from the Sun to the Earth. STEREO has revealed the 3D structure of coronal mass ejections, eruptions of matter from the sun, and can help us understand why they happen.

The purple star representing the “head” of the smiling star. That picture shows a substantial coronal hole that had rotated so that it temporarily faced right towards Earth on May 17-19, 2016. Coronal holes are magnetically open areas from which high-speed solar wind streams into space.


All of these missions were put into motion to either observe the effects of the Sun on the Earth, or to better understand the wonders of the Sun. Considering how many things we still don’t know about the Sun, there will most definitely be new technologies that will be formulated to help us understand the underlying workings of the massive star that keeps us alive.