Space

NASA squeezes three years of solar activity into a three minute time-lapse video

NASA squeezes three years of s...
Composite of 25 separate images of the Sun captured buy NASA's SDO (Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/S. Wiessinger)
Composite of 25 separate images of the Sun captured buy NASA's SDO (Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/S. Wiessinger)
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Composite of 25 separate images of the Sun captured buy NASA's SDO (Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/S. Wiessinger)
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Composite of 25 separate images of the Sun captured buy NASA's SDO (Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/S. Wiessinger)
A long filament erupted on the Sun on August 31, 2012, shown here in this still captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The eruption lasted from noon EDT to 1:45 a.m. the next morning. This still shows light at 304 Angstroms which help scientists observe the Sun's atmosphere, or corona. Pictured next to the filament is a superimposed Earth, shown to scale (Photo: NASA/SDO/Steele Hill)
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A long filament erupted on the Sun on August 31, 2012, shown here in this still captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The eruption lasted from noon EDT to 1:45 a.m. the next morning. This still shows light at 304 Angstroms which help scientists observe the Sun's atmosphere, or corona. Pictured next to the filament is a superimposed Earth, shown to scale (Photo: NASA/SDO/Steele Hill)
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this image of an M6.5 class flare at 3:16 EDT on April 11, 2013. This image shows a combination of light in wavelengths of 131 and 171 Angstroms (Photo: NASA/SDO)
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NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured this image of an M6.5 class flare at 3:16 EDT on April 11, 2013. This image shows a combination of light in wavelengths of 131 and 171 Angstroms (Photo: NASA/SDO)
Instruments deployed on the SDO (Photo: NASA/SDO)
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Instruments deployed on the SDO (Photo: NASA/SDO)
This image shows four separate images of the M5.3 class flare from the morning of July 4, 2012. In clockwise order starting at the top left, the wavelengths shown are: 131, 94, 193, and 171 Angstroms. Each wavelength shows a different temperature of material, which in turn corresponds to different levels of the Sun's atmosphere. By looking at images in several wavelengths, scientists can track how a solar eruption moves through the layers (Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/Helioviewer/TheSunToday)
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This image shows four separate images of the M5.3 class flare from the morning of July 4, 2012. In clockwise order starting at the top left, the wavelengths shown are: 131, 94, 193, and 171 Angstroms. Each wavelength shows a different temperature of material, which in turn corresponds to different levels of the Sun's atmosphere. By looking at images in several wavelengths, scientists can track how a solar eruption moves through the layers (Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/Helioviewer/TheSunToday)
Six extreme UV images of our sun, from May 2010 to Sept. 2012, as seen by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), track the rising level of solar activity as the Sun ascends toward the peak of the latest 11-year sunspot cycle, which will occur in 2013. The images were taken in the 171 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light (Photo: NASA/SDO)
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Six extreme UV images of our sun, from May 2010 to Sept. 2012, as seen by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), track the rising level of solar activity as the Sun ascends toward the peak of the latest 11-year sunspot cycle, which will occur in 2013. The images were taken in the 171 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light (Photo: NASA/SDO)
This image is a composite of 25 separate images spanning the period of April 16, 2012, to April 15, 2013 (Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/S. Wiessinger)
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This image is a composite of 25 separate images spanning the period of April 16, 2012, to April 15, 2013 (Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/S. Wiessinger)
SDO 3-D schematic (Photo: NASA/SDO)
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SDO 3-D schematic (Photo: NASA/SDO)
The very first light image from Solar Dynamics Observatory showing the Sun performing a beautiful prominence eruption (Photo: NASA/SDO)
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The very first light image from Solar Dynamics Observatory showing the Sun performing a beautiful prominence eruption (Photo: NASA/SDO)
SDO ready to be placed on Atlas rocket for launch (Photo: NASA/SDO)
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SDO ready to be placed on Atlas rocket for launch (Photo: NASA/SDO)
This image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows the Sun at 12:45 PM EDT on July 12, 2012 during an X1.4 class flare (Photo: NASA/SDO)
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This image from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) shows the Sun at 12:45 PM EDT on July 12, 2012 during an X1.4 class flare (Photo: NASA/SDO)
Rendition of the SDO's AIA pointing at our sun and collecting data (Photo: NASA/SDO)
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Rendition of the SDO's AIA pointing at our sun and collecting data (Photo: NASA/SDO)
View gallery - 12 images

Three years ago the very first images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) were beamed back to earth. Since then, NASA’s SDO has effectively had continuous coverage of the Sun’s rise towards solar maximum, the period of the most intense solar activity in the 11 year solar cycle. NASA has now provided a fascinating snapshot of this ongoing research in the form of a time-lapse video that squeezes three years of solar activity into three minutes of footage.

Living With a Star

Launched aboard an Atlas V rocket on Feb. 11 2010 the SDO is the crown jewel in a fleet of NASA missions to study our sun. It is the cornerstone of Living With a Star (LWS), a NASA initiative to develop the understanding needed to address those aspects of the Sun and Solar System that directly affect our lives. The second LWS mission, the Van Allen Probes, was launched on August 30, 2012 with the aim of determining how charged particles near the Earth are accelerated to hazardous energies that affect satellites, astronaut safety, and high-altitude aircraft. Also included in the LWS mission schedule is the Balloon Array for Radiation-belt Relativistic Electron Losses (BARREL), which will measure the high-energy particle precipitation from the radiation belts into our Earth’s atmosphere, plus the Solar Probe Plus mission and Solar Orbiter Collaboration. Crucially, the SDO is studying how solar activity is created and how it, in turn, creates space weather. This activity comes in the form of changes in radiation, the solar wind, magnetic fields and other factors that constitute space weather similar to the changes in temperature, rainfall and winds that affect weather on Earth.

The SDO is observing the interior of the Sun where the magnetic field – the catalyst for space weather – is created. It is also studying the solar surface to measure the magnetic field and solar atmosphere, along with the extreme ultraviolet irradiance of the Sun that is critical to understanding the behavior of the outer layers of the Earth’s atmosphere.

The SDO study is already helping scientists to better predict solar flares and rising magnetic fields (coronal mass ejections) which can interfere with satellites in space and send radiation and solar material toward Earth.

Solar snapshot

The SDO's on-board Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) captures a shot of the Sun every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths sending 1.5 terabytes of data back to Earth each day.

Rendition of the SDO's AIA pointing at our sun and collecting data (Photo: NASA/SDO)
Rendition of the SDO's AIA pointing at our sun and collecting data (Photo: NASA/SDO)

The images shown in the video below are based on a wavelength of 171 angstroms (the extreme ultraviolet range) enabling us to see solar material at around 600,000 kelvin (about 1.08 million F). The Sun’s 25-day rotation is easily visible in this wavelength showing us how solar activity has increased over the three years.

What we are seeing is essentially a time-lapse of those three years at a pace of two images per day, two frames per image at 29.97 fps.

NASA | SDO: Three Years of Sun in Three Minutes

During the video you may notice the Sun appears to increase and decrease in size. This is because the distance between the SDO and the Sun is not always constant. The video, however, is remarkably stable despite the fact that SDO is moving around Earth at 6,876 mph and the Earth orbits the Sun at 67,062 mph.

Noteworthy events that appear briefly in the main sequence of this video include:

  • 00:30:24 Partial eclipse by the moon
  • 00:31:16 Roll maneuver
  • 01:11:02 August 9, 2011 X6.9 Largest solar flare
  • 01:28:07 Comet Lovejoy, December 15, 2011
  • 01:42:29 Roll maneuver
  • 01:51:07 Transit of Venus, June 5, 2012
  • 02:28:13 Partial lunar eclipse

Source: NASA/SDO

View gallery - 12 images
4 comments
Ruth Vallejos
I don't know much about solar thermodynamics, so I'm going to ask what may be a series of basic questions: 1) Do all years follow the same activity pattern as the year captured in the lovely photo/montage showing activity from mid april 12 to mid april 13? (i.e. the majority of activity is hovering around the equator) 2) If so, why? (gas flow patterns due to spinning of sun?) 3) If not, why not? (chemistry trumps pressure from spinning?)
Thanks!
Gary Fisher
It would be interesting and useful to have a date display on the video, perhaps a timeline across the bottom corresponding to the YouTube position indicator.
Bernard Howard
This would make a really 'cool' screen saver for a smartphone ?
POOL PUMPREAPAIR guy longwood
The effect on the earths temperature would be nice to know when there is most activity on the sun ?