The Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, has now captured nearly seven years worth of ultra-high resolution solar footage. This time lapse shows that full run from two of SDO's instruments. The large orange sun is visible light captured by the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager, or HMI. The smaller golden sun is extreme ultraviolet light from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, or AIA, and reveals some of the sun's atmosphere, the corona. Both appear at one frame every 12 hours. SDO's nearly unbroken run is now long enough to watch the rise and fall of the current solar cycle. The graph of solar activity shows the sunspot number, a measurement based on the number of individual spots and the number of sunspot groups. In this case, the line represents a smoothed 26-day average to more clearly show the overall trend.
Our sun is ever-changing, and the Solar Dynamics Observatory has a front-row seat.
On Feb. 11, 2010, NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory, also known as SDO. SDO keeps a constant eye on the sun, helping us track everything from sunspots to solar flares to other types of space weather that can have an impact on Earth. For instance, solar activity is behind the aurora, one of Earth’s most dazzling natural events.
The sun’s activity rises and falls in a pattern that lasts about 11 years on average. This is called the solar cycle. After seven years in space, SDO has had a chance to do what few other satellites have been able to do – watch the sun for the majority of a solar cycle in 11 types of light. This video shows two.