Dancing in the Sun

16 February 2015

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has been observing the Sun for five years. It’s goal is to study the dynamic variations of the Sun and how they affect our planet. It’s gathered 2.6 petabytes of information, and its data is used for a range of scientific work, from helioseismology and studies of the corona to solar flares and sunspots. It’s also gathered some stunning visuals showing the complex dance of our closest star. Some of the visuals from year five are presented in this wonderful video.

Throughout the video you can see prominences that burst out from the solar surface and wisps of plasma flowing along magnetic field lines. There are filaments looking like cracks in the Sun, and bubbling granules as material from the warmer interior churns toward the Sun’s surface. You can watch coronal mass ejections, and see how the limb of the Sun appears cooler and dimmer. You can even see a transit of Venus.

Often in astronomy, it is the brief moments of fame that get the greatest attention. The landing on a comet, or on Titan. The mission to Ceres, or the upcoming Pluto flyby. These missions deserve the recognition they get, but there are also missions such as the SDO, which quietly gather data, year after year. Though not nearly as sexy, they are just as important as the missions that dance in the Sun.