The sun's million-degree atmosphere is fierce, fiery, and flaming in a series of recent close-ups, which are the highest-resolution images ever taken of our star's outer layer.

NASA's High Resolution Coronal Imager telescope, launched on July 11, 2012, captured these images of the sun's corona. They don't just look stellar--scientists plan to study them to gain a better understanding of the solar atmosphere and how it affects Earth.

"These revolutionary images of the sun demonstrate the key aspects of NASA's sounding rocket program, namely the training of the next generation of principal investigators, the development of new space technologies, and scientific advancements," Barbara Giles, director of NASA's Heliophysics Division, said in a written statement.

The telescope focused on a large active region on the sun and gathered data at a rate of about one image every five seconds.

"We have an exceptional instrument and launched at the right time," Jonathan Cirtain, senior heliophysicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, said in a written statement. "Because of the intense solar activity we're seeing right now, we were able to clearly focus on a sizeable, active sunspot and achieve our imaging goals."

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