Cosmic Canvas: Sunspot, 1860

Sunspot, 1860. Photo by SSPL/Getty Images

Here we see a painting made in oil distemper and lampblack on paper by Scottish engineer and inventor James Nasmyth (1808-1890), comparing the size of a sunspot to that of the Earth. Nasmyth worked from his own sketches, which he obtained though extensive solar observations made in his retirement. Nasmyth discovered fine scale solar features, which he called "willow-leaf-shaped objects."

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.