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Stunning views of the sun ... and Discovery?!

Amateur astrophotographer Alan Friedman has done it again. Adding to an already impressive collection of outer space images, he just published two more magnificent photos of the sun. First, here's a view of a gassy prominence flaring off the sun like a cloud:

Alan Friedman

This section of the solar disk was imaged at the Winter Star Party on West Summerland Key in Florida, in the midst of 30 mph winds. The massive detached solar prominence was visible for hours. Skies were quite steady, despite the wind.

To add some perspective on the sheer magnitude of what Friedman is documenting, look at the dark spot below the prominence. That spot is roughly twice the size of the Earth. 

Using the same specialized equipment he used in October 2010 to produce the last set of breathtaking images, Friedman looks at the deep red end of the light spectrum to capture the emissions given off by hydrogen gas in the sun's atmosphere.

He also came away with a historic glimpse of Discovery as it was docked to the International Space Station, during the space shuttle's final mission.

Friedman said he captured the event, lasting just a fifth of a second, after making an 1,800-mile drive from Buffalo, N.Y., to the Winter Star Party in West Summerland Key, Fla.

He went to the Florida gathering "for the steady skies, warm temperatures and the company of good astronomy friends." But when he learned that the International Space Station would cross paths with the sun, and that the sight would be visible 20 miles north of where the star party was being held, he felt compelled to document the flyover.

"I jumped into the car with solar imaging gear, and we got set up just in time to catch it." he said. "I underestimated the narrowness of this event. We were about 5,000 feet south of the centerline in a good location... another 500 feet and we would have missed it entirely. Lucky day!"

Alan Friedman

Silhouetted by the sun, the space shuttle Discovery can be seen docked to the International Space Station during its final mission.

Friedman talks with TODAY.com's Dara Brown about his latest work:

More imagery of the sun and the shuttle: