NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has been very busy capturing images of the sun over the last decade. From June 2, 2010 through June 1, 2020, the SDO captured 425 million images of the sun. Per NASA, the team amassed about 20 million gigabytes of images of the sun in the past decade and with that data, NASA compiled 10 years’ worth of images into the amazing timelapse video above.
Using three primary instruments, the SDO captures an image of the sun every 0.75 seconds. One of these instruments, the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), captures images every 12 seconds at 10 different wavelengths of light. In the timelapse video published by NASA, we see photos of the sun captured at the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 17.1 nanometers. This wavelength allows us to view the sun’s outermost layer, called the corona.
Generally, the hour-long timelapse video features a compiled image from each hour of every day for the past 10 years. Although, there are a few exceptions. There are dark frames caused by the Earth or moon eclipsing SDO as they pass between the spacecraft and the sun. There was also a week-long outage of the AIA instrument in 2016. Any off-center images of the sun are due to periodic instrument calibration.
As you can imagine, the SDO has witnessed many interesting events during its period of observation. In the video above, at 6:20, you can see a prominence eruption from the lower right area of the sun from June 7, 2011. At 12:24, you can see the transit of Venus across the face of the sun on June 5, 2012. This event won’t occur again until the year 2117. On July 19, 2012, a brilliant display of looping plasma showed a complex event in the sun’s magnetic field, this can be seen at 13:06. About six weeks later, on August 31, 2012, the ‘most iconic eruption of this solar cycle’ occurred, witnessed at 13:50 in the video.
Jumping ahead to 36:18, you can view Mercury as it transits across the face of the sun on May 9, 2016. It is more difficult to spot than Venus, but you can learn more about it here. Mercury appears again at 57:38, as it transited the sun again on November 11, 2019. This will Mercury’s last transit until 2032. A full list of interesting events you can witness in the video can be found in the description on YouTube.
|‘An X8.2 class solar flare flashes in the edge of the Sun on Sept. 10, 2017. This image was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and shows a blend of light from the 171 and 304 angstrom wavelengths.’ Image and text credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO|
Scott Wiessinger (USRA) was the lead producer on the video above. Tom Bridgman (GST) was the lead data visualizer. Leading scientific writing was Mara Johnson-Groh (Wyle Information Systems). The music, ‘Solar Observer,’ was written and produced by Lars Leonhard.
If you’d like to learn more about NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, you can find a wealth of fascinating information by clicking here.
Earlier this year, NASA published a shorter video that covered 10 of the most important things scientists have learned during SDO’s first decade in space. You can check that out below.
Image credit: Images via NASA/GSFC/SDO