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Microwaves are actually produced by a multitude of astrophysical sources, including strong emitters known as masers (microwave lasers), even stronger emitters with the somewhat villainous name of megamasers and the centers of some galaxies. The lower, blue-tinted galaxy is a special kind of megamaser. The galaxy’s active galaxtic nucleus pumps out huge amounts of energy, which stimulates clouds of surrounding water. Water’s constituent atoms of hydrogen and oxygen are able to absorb some of this energy and re-emit it at specific wavelengths, one of which falls within the microwave regime. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
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A single, tiny one appeared on Jan. 31, but even that is hard to see in this rotating view from our Solar Dynamics Observatory. The video shows a rotating sun in filtered light for the past week, but it is even hard to tell the sun is rotating since there are just about no features. This spotless period is a prelude to the approaching period of solar minimum next year, when the Sun’s activity will be at the low end of its 11-year cycle. Credit: NASA/SDO