NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory marked its fifth anniversary in space with the release of two spectacular videos of the Sun.
The first video (above) is a time lapse of the past five years of Sun watching. The Sun is seen in a number of different colours that represent the different wavelengths, or temperatures, of extreme ultraviolet light, ultraviolet light and visible light.
The second video (below) showcases highlights from the last five years, including dazzling footage of huge sunspots, solar hoops hovering in the corona and giant clouds of solar material being thrown into space.
The Solar Dynamic Observatory, or SDO, captures detailed images of the Earth-face side of the Sun almost once per second for 24 hours a day. Each video features imagery that is also used as data to help us learn more about our star. Scientists use these images to study coronal eruptions, the temperature of the Sun’s atmosphere and the Sun’s magnetic fields. The extreme ultraviolet light produced by the Sun is also responsible for most of the energy that heats Earth’s upper atmosphere, and SDO measures fluctuations in that output.
SDO is the first mission of the NASA’s program Living with a Star, which seeks to improve scientific understanding of the Sun-Earth system and how it affects our lives.
As Alan Duffy reported in Cosmos last month, the SDO is giving us new insights into the way the Sun works.
Megan Toomey is a freelance journalist based in Melbourne.
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