NASA captures three years of the sun in three-minute video

23 Apr 2013

This image is a composite of 25 separate images of the sun spanning the period of 16 April 2012, to 15 April 2013. Image via NASA/SDO/AIA/S. Wiessinger

With the sun destined to reach the peak of its 11-year solar cycle this year, NASA has released a compelling three-minute video that compresses three years of imaging of the Earth’s closest star.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory started taking images of the sun in 2010 and since then has had virtually unbroken coverage of the sun’s rise towards its solar maximum.

Every 11 years on average the sun reaches a peak period of activity called the solar maximum, which can result in increased solar activity, such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

The SDO launched on 11 February 2010 on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The aim of the SDO mission is to learn more about the sun’s influence on Earth and near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere.

Since then, the SDO’s atmospheric imaging assembly instrument has been capturing a shot of the sun every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths.

The images shown in the following NASA video are based on a wavelength of 171 angstroms, which is in the extreme ultraviolet range and shows solar material at around 600,000 degrees Kelvin (the equivalent of about 1.08m°F ).

According to NASA, this wavelength makes it easy to see the sun’s 25-day rotation, as well as how solar activity has increased over three years.

During the video, you will see that the sun subtly increases and decreases in apparent size. This is because the distance between the SDO spacecraft and the sun varies over time.

NASA said the images are remarkably consistent and stable, despite the fact the SDO orbits Earth at 6,876 mph and Earth orbits the sun at 67,062 mph.

Check out the video here:

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic