Solar imaging by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SD0) of the Sun has been going non-stop for over a full decade. From its orbit in space around Earth, SDO has gathered 425 million high-resolution images of the Sun, amassing 20 million gigabytes of data over the past 10 years. This information has enabled countless new discoveries about the workings of our closest star and how it influences the solar system.
With a triad of instruments, SDO captures an image of the Sun every 0.75 seconds. The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument alone captures images every 12 seconds at 10 different wavelengths of light.
Using this data NASA has created a 10-year time lapse video (offered below) which showcases images taken at a wavelength of 17.1 nanometers, which is an extreme ultraviolet wavelength that shows the Sun’s outermost atmospheric layer – the corona.
Compiling one photo every hour, the movie condenses a decade of the Sun into 61 minutes. The video shows the rise and fall in activity that occurs as part of the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and notable events, like transiting planets and eruptions. The custom music, titled “Solar Observer,” was composed by musician Lars Leonhard. While SDO has kept an unblinking eye pointed toward the Sun, there have been a few moments it missed.
The dark frames in the video are caused by Earth or the Moon eclipsing SDO as they pass between the spacecraft and the Sun. A longer blackout in 2016 was caused by a temporary issue with the AIA instrument that was successfully resolved after a week. The images where the Sun is off-center were observed when SDO was calibrating its instruments.
Fortunately for the amateur astronomy community, solar imaging is not just relegated to NASA and is something that can be enjoyed at home with a variety of instruments. There are a number of options from companies including Lunt Instruments, Coronado Solar and Daystar Filters that provide superb solar imaging opportunities.
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