NASA’s Epic 10-Year Time Lapse of the Sun

Created from a collection of 425 million images totaling 20 million gigabytes

A Decade of Sun
Source: NASA Twitter

What is the Solar Dynamics Observatory?

Although the Sun is our closest star, a lot about it is still unknown. The SDO is a NASA mission that aims to narrow this knowledge gap.

How does the SDO capture images?

NASA’s SDO Satellite. Source: NASA
  1. Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) — The AIA takes pictures of the outer layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, at a wide range of temperatures and at highly-frequent intervals. The secret to capturing the sun is to capture light we humans can’t see. These are ultraviolet and infrared light. The AIA has four telescopes fitted with special filters that only allow extreme ultra-violet light to get through. These telescopes capture images at 10 different wavelengths every 12 seconds and they have a spatial resolution of 725 km.
Images at 13 different wavelengths. Source: NASA

How much data does the SDO send back to Earth?

The SDO was designed to send unprecedented amounts of data back to Earth, 50 times more data than any other NASA mission at the time of its launch, and enough to fill a single CD every 36 seconds.

How does the work of the SDO matter?

Our society depends heavily on things like electricity, wireless communication, GPS navigation, and air travel — all of which can be brought down by intense solar activity. A solar storm can cause twenty-times more damage than Hurricane Katrina. The SDO allows us to predict such a storm and be prepared for it.

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