Sun Show: Solar Observatory’s First Amazing Pictures

Events that happen on the sun can dramatically affect life here on Earth, so NASA created the Solar Dynamics Observatory project to further explore the connection between our star and our planet. The semi-autonomous spacecraft was launched in February 2010 and has just returned some of its first solar images. They were well worth the wait.

The spacecraft is constantly pointed toward the sun, so it’s able to provide nearly continuous observations of the activity taking place on the star. These images give us a glimpse of the turbulent nature of our giant ball of gas in the sky, including a stunning solar flare. SDO not only snaps awesome pictures of the sun; it can also measure magnetic activity and ultraviolet energy output.

Over time, the SDO project should help astronomers to more accurately predict solar weather events that will affect life on Earth. The video above shows an extreme ultraviolet eruption that is approximately 50,000 degrees Celsius. This short movie and these pictures are just the first in what will surely be a stunningly beautiful – and scientifically profound – catalog of solar images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

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See more in Space & Time or under Science. April, 2010.