SDO: Produced Videos

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2020

  • Solar Activity Continues to Rise with 'Anemone' Eruption
    2020.12.03
    This imagery captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a solar flare and a subsequent eruption of solar material that occurred over the left limb of the Sun on November 29, 2020. From its foot point over the limb, some of the light and energy was blocked from reaching Earth – a little like seeing light from a lightbulb with the bottom half covered up. Also visible in the imagery is an eruption of solar material that achieved escape velocity and moved out into space as a giant cloud of gas and magnetic fields known as a coronal mass ejection, or CME. A third, but invisible, feature of such eruptive events also blew off the Sun: a swarm of fast-moving solar energetic particles. Such particles are guided by the magnetic fields streaming out from the Sun, which, due to the Sun’s constant rotation, point backwards in a big spiral much the way water comes out of a spinning sprinkler. The solar energetic particles, therefore, emerging as they did from a part of the Sun not yet completely rotated into our view, traveled along that magnetic spiral away from Earth toward the other side of the Sun. While the solar material didn’t head toward Earth, it did pass by some spacecraft: NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, NASA’s STEREO and ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter. Equipped to measure magnetic fields and the particles that pass over them, we may be able to study fast-moving solar energetic particles in the observations once they are downloaded. These sun-watching missions are all part of a larger heliophysics fleet that help us understand both what causes such eruptions on the Sun -- as well as how solar activity affects interplanetary space, including near Earth, where they have the potential to affect astronauts and satellites.
  • A Decade of Sun
    2020.06.24
    As of June 2020, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory  SDO  has now been watching the Sun non-stop for over a full decade. From its orbit in space around the Earth, SDO has gathered 425 million high-resolution images of the Sun, amassing 20,000,000 gigabytes of data over the past ten 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. This 10-year time lapse showcases photos 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 towards 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. SDO and other NASA missions will continue to watch our Sun in the years to come, providing further insights about our place in space and information to keep our astronauts and assets safe. • Learn more about SDOTen Things We’ve Learned About the Sun From NASA’s SDO This Decade
  • SDO Tenth Launch Anniversary
    2020.02.11
    In February 2020, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory — SDO — is celebrating its tenth year in space. Over the past decade the spacecraft has kept a constant eye on the Sun, studying how the Sun creates solar activity and drives space weather — the dynamic conditions in space that impact the entire solar system, including Earth. Since its launch on February 11, 2010, SDO has collected millions of scientific images of our nearest star, giving scientists new insights into its workings. SDO’s measurements of the Sun — from the interior to the atmosphere, magnetic field, and energy output — have greatly contributed to our understanding of our closest star. SDO’s images have also become iconic — if you’ve ever seen a close up of activity on the Sun, it was likely from an SDO image.

2019

  • A New Kind of Explosion on the Sun
    2019.12.17
    In the scorching upper reaches of the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, scientists have just seen a new type of magnetic explosion. Known as forced or controlled magnetic reconnection, this process occurs when a nearby eruption causes tangled magnetic field lines to explosively snap and realign, flinging out particles and energy. The discovery may help scientists understand a key mystery about the Sun’s atmosphere.
  • Mercury Transit 2019 - 4K
    2019.11.11
    Starting around approximately 1200 - 1808 UTC (7:00 am - 1:38pm ET) November 11, 2019, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory watched as Mercury move across the Sun. The Solar Dynamics Observatory views the Sun in a variety of wavelengths of light in the extreme ultraviolet.

2018

2017

  • September Flares
    2017.09.06
    Active region 2673 emitted a series of flares in early September, 2017, including: --an M5.5 at 4:33 p.m. EDT on Sept. 4, 2017 --an X2.2 at 5:10 a.m. EDT on Sept. 6, 2017 --an X9.3 at 8:02 a.m. EDT on Sept. 6, 2017 --an M7.3 at 6:15 a.m. EDT on Sept. 7, 2017 --an X1.3 at 10:36 a.m. EDT on Sept. 7, 2017 --an M8.1 at 3:49 a.m. EDT on Sept. 8, 2017 --an X8.2 at 12:47 p.m. EDT on Sept. 10, 2017 NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured images of the events. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. To see how this event may affect Earth, please visit NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government's official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc. The X9.3 flare was the largest flare so far in the current solar cycle, the approximately 11-year-cycle during which the sun’s activity waxes and wanes. The current solar cycle began in December 2008, and is now decreasing in intensity and heading toward solar minimum. This is a phase when such eruptions on the sun are increasingly rare, but history has shown that they can nonetheless be intense.
    September 10, X8.2

    September 8, M8.1

    September 7, X1.3

    September 6, X9.3 and X2.2

    September 4, M5.5
  • What Spacecraft Saw During the 2017 Solar Eclipse
    2017.08.30
    On Aug. 21, 2017, a solar eclipse passed over North America. People throughout the continent experienced a partial solar eclipse, and a total solar eclipse passed over a narrow swath of land stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, called the path of totality.

    NASA and its partner’s satellites had a unique vantage point to watch the eclipse. Several Sun-watching satellites were in a position to see the Moon cross in front of the Sun, while many Earth-observing satellites – and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which typically images the Moon’s landscape – captured images of the Moon’s shadow on Earth’s surface.

    See more and download content at https://go.nasa.gov/2x7b8kf

    Imagery provided by:
    SDO NASA/SDO
    ISS NASA/ISS
    SOHO inside image credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory, LMSAL and NASA’s GSFC; Middle image: Jay Pasachoff, Ron Dantowitz, Christian Lockwood, and the Williams College Eclipse Expedition/NSF/National Geographic Outside image credit: LASCO from NRL on SOHO from ESA/NASA
    Hinode Image credit: JAXA/NASA
    GOES Image credit: NOAA/NASA’s GOES-16
    NOAA’s DSCOVR Image credit: NASA EPIC Team
    Terra Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens and Jesse Allen, using MODIS data from the Land Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE) and EOSDIS/Rapid Response
    Suomi NPP Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens and Jesse Allen, using VIIRS data from the University of Wisconsin’s Space Science and Engineering Center Direct Broadcast system.
    IRIS Image credit: LMSAL/NASA, Bart De Pontieu
    LRO Image credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

  • SDO's View of the August 21 Solar Eclipse
    2017.08.22
    NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory was also treated to a view of the Moon blocking the Sun. Because of its location 3,000 miles above the Earth, SDO sees several lunar transits each year. An eclipse on the ground, however, does not guarantee that SDO will see anything out of the ordinary. In this case, SDO was lucky and got treated to the Moon briefly passing in front of its non-stop view of the Sun at the same time that the Moon’s shadow passed over the eastern United States. SDO only saw 14% of the Sun blocked by the Moon, whereas most US residents saw 60% or more. Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the Sun. It has examined the Sun's atmosphere, magnetic field and also provided a better understanding of the role the Sun plays in Earth's atmospheric chemistry and climate. SDO captures images of the Sun in 10 different wavelengths every 12 seconds at resolution 8 times better than HD. Each wavelength helps highlight a different temperature of solar material. Different temperatures can, in turn, show specific structures on the sun such as solar flares, which are gigantic explosions of light and x-rays, or coronal loops, which are stream of solar material traveling up and down looping magnetic field lines. The videos and images displayed here are constructed from several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light and a portion of the visible spectrum. The red colored Sun is the 304 ångstrom ultraviolet, the golden colored Sun is 171 ångstrom, and the orange Sun is filtered visible light. 304 and 171 show the atmosphere of the Sun, which does not appear in the visible part of the spectrum. 171 highlights material at about 1 million degrees Fahrenheit (600,000 degrees Celsius.)
  • Sun Shreds Its Own Eruption
    2017.08.11
    On September 30, 2014, multiple NASA observatories watched what appeared to be the beginnings of a solar eruption. A filament — a serpentine structure consisting of dense solar material and often associated with solar eruptions — rose from the surface, gaining energy and speed as it soared. But instead of erupting from the Sun, the filament collapsed, shredded to pieces by invisible magnetic forces.
  • Two Weeks in the Life of a Sunspot
    2017.08.04
    On July 5, 2017, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory watched AR26665, an active region — an area of intense and complex magnetic fields — rotate into view on the sun. The satellite continued to track the region as it grew and eventually rotated across the sun and out of view on July 17.
  • April 2017 Solar Flare Trio
    2017.04.03
    The sun emitted a trio of mid-level solar flares on April 2-3, 2017. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured images of the three events.

2016

  • NASA’s SDO Captures Stunning 4K View of April 17 Solar Flare
    2016.04.26
    On April 17, 2016, an active region on the sun’s right side released a mid-level solar flare, captured here by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. This solar flare caused moderate radio blackouts, according to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. Scientists study active regions – which are areas of intense magnetism – to better understand why they sometimes erupt with such flares. This video was captured in several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light, a type of light that is typically invisible to our eyes, but is color-coded in SDO images for easy viewing.
  • 2016 Mercury Transit in 4K
    2016.06.01
    Around 13 times per century, Mercury passes between Earth and the sun in a rare astronomical event known as a planetary transit. Mercury orbits in a plane that is tilted from Earth’s orbit, moving above or below our line of sight to the sun. The 2016 Mercury transit occurred on May 9th, between about 7:12 a.m. and 2:42 p.m. EDT. The images in this video are from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO. Transits provide a great opportunity to study the way planets and stars move in space– information that has been used throughout the ages to better understand the solar system and which still helps scientists today calibrate their instruments.
  • 2016 Mercury Transit Timelapse
    2016.05.09
    Around 13 times per century, Mercury passes between Earth and the sun in a rare astronomical event known as a planetary transit. Mercury orbits in a plane that is tilted from Earth’s orbit, moving above or below our line of sight to the sun.

    The 2016 Mercury transit occurred on May 9th, between about 7:12 a.m. and 2:42 p.m. EDT.

    The images in this video are from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO.

    Transits provide a great opportunity to study the way planets and stars move in space– information that has been used throughout the ages to better understand the solar system and which still helps scientists today calibrate their instruments.

  • SDO Sees Trio of Mid-Level Flares
    2016.07.25
    The sun emitted three mid-level solar flares on July 22-23, 2016, the strongest peaking at 1:16 am EDT on July 23. The sun is currently in a period of low activity, moving toward what's called solar minimum when there are few to no solar eruptions – so these flares were the first large ones observed since April. They are categorized as mid-strength flares, substantially less intense than the most powerful solar flares.

2015

  • SDO Transit - September 2015
    2015.09.14
    On Sept. 13, 2015, as NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, kept up its constant watch on the sun, its view was photobombed not once, but twice. Just as the moon came into SDO’s field of view on a path to cross the sun, Earth entered the picture, blocking SDO’s view completely. When SDO's orbit finally emerged from behind Earth, the moon was just completing its journey across the sun’s face.

    Though SDO sees dozens of Earth eclipses and several lunar transits each year, this is the first time ever that the two have coincided.

    SDO’s orbit usually gives us unobstructed views of the sun, but Earth’s revolution around the sun means that SDO’s orbit passes behind Earth twice each year, for two to three weeks at a time. During these phases, Earth blocks SDO’s view of the sun for anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour once each day.

    Earth’s outline looks fuzzy, while the moon’s is crystal-clear. This is because—while the planet itself completely blocks the sun's light—Earth’s atmosphere is an incomplete barrier, blocking different amounts of light at different altitudes. However, the moon has no atmosphere, so during the transit we can see the crisp edges of the moon's horizon.

  • NASA's SDO Observes a Cinco de Mayo Solar Flare
    2015.05.06
    The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 6:11 pm EDT on May 5, 2015. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.    This flare is classified as an X2.7-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.
  • Five Year Time-lapse of SDO
    2015.02.11
    The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) celebrates its 5th anniversary since it launched on February 11, 2010. This time-lapse video captures one frame every 8 hours starting when data became available in June 2010 and finishing February 8, 2015. The different colors represent the various wavelengths (sometimes blended, sometimes alone) in which SDO observes the sun. For more about SDO, please visit http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/
  • Phoenix Prominence Eruption
    2015.05.01
    Over a six-hour period on April 21, 2015, NASA's Solar Dyanmics Observatory (SDO) observed a wing-like prominence eruption. SDO views the sun in various wavelegnths of the extreme ultravoilet, including 171 (shown in gold) and 304 (shown in orange) angstroms.
  • NASA Enters World of Ultra-High-Def (4K) Video
    2015.11.01
    The solar system? Big. The galaxy? Bigger. What's bigger than that? Before you smugly suggest "The universe?", check this out: 4K Videos from NASA! A little more than a decade ago, television transformed from the boxy, standard definition dimensions of 20th century engineers to the wider and sharper images of high definition TV. Well into the 21st century now, rapid growth in the next generation of video images promises to deliver spectacular pictures with profoundly greater fidelity and resolution than even the best HDTV. Officially known as Ultra-High Definition Television, it has rapidly come to be known as "4K", a moniker derived from the approximate width of images measured in pixels horizontally across a screen. NASA has a long legacy pushing the boundaries of advanced media technologies, befitting its unique role in presenting important, state-of-the-art science and engineering stories to the American public. On this web page you'll find the first major release of 4K video content, presented in the public domain. The release of these media are concurrent with the launch of a new, non-commercial Ultra-High Definition channel in partnership with Harmonic. For each of the following items on this website you may preview the program in your browser or you may select one of several different resolutions from the "download" button in the lower right hand corner of each. Be advised that the 4K videos will require fast internet connections and substantial storage space. SYNTHESIS: NASA DATA VISUALIZATIONS IN ULTRA-HD (4K) THERMONUCLEAR ART –
    THE SUN IN ULTRA-HIGH DEFINITION (4K) VIDEO
    PURSUIT OF LIGHT BENNU’S JOURNEY ARCTIC B-ROLL IN 4K
  • Arching Eruption
    2015.06.30
    NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught this image of an eruption on the side of the sun over June 18, 2015. The eruption ultimately escaped the sun, growing into a substantial coronal mass ejection, or CME — a giant cloud of solar material traveling through space. This imagery is shown in the 304 angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, a wavelength that highlights material in the low parts of the sun’s atmosphere and that is typically colorized in red. The video clip covers about four hours of the event.

2014

  • NASA's SDO Watches Giant Filament on the Sun
    2014.10.06
    A snaking, extended filament of solar material currently lies on the front of the sun— some 1 million miles across from end to end. Filaments are clouds of solar material suspended above the sun by powerful magnetic forces. Though notoriously unstable, filaments can last for days or even weeks. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which watches the sun 24 hours a day, has observed this gigantic filament for several days as it rotated around with the sun. If straightened out, the filament would reach almost across the whole sun, about 1 million miles or 100 times the size of Earth. SDO captured images of the filament in numerous wavelengths, each of which helps highlight material of different temperatures on the sun. By looking at any solar feature in different wavelengths and temperatures, scientists can learn more about what causes such structures, as well as what catalyzes their occasional giant eruptions out into space. Look at the images to see how the filament appears in different wavelengths. The brownish combination image was produced by blending two wavelengths of extreme UV light with a wavelength of 193 and 335 angstroms. The red image shows the 304 angstrom wavelength of extreme UV light.
  • SDO Lunar Transit, Prominence Eruption, and M-Class Flare
    2014.01.30
    On Jan 30, 2014, beginning at 8:31 a.m EST, the moon moved between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, and the sun, giving the observatory a view of a partial solar eclipse from space. Such a lunar transit happens two to three times each year. This one lasted two and one half hours, which is the longest ever recorded. When the next one will occur is as of yet unknown due to planned adjustments in SDO's orbit.

    Note in the pictures how crisp the horizon is on the moon, a reflection of the fact that the moon has no atmosphere around it to distort the light from the sun.

    The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 11:11 a.m. EST on Jan. 30, 2014. Images of the flare were captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, shortly after the observatory witnessed a lunar transit. The black disk of the moon can be seen in the lower right of the images.

  • NASA's SDO Provides Images of Significant Solar Flare
    2014.02.25
    The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 7:49 p.m. EST on Feb. 24, 2014. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which keeps a constant watch on the sun, captured images of the event.

    This flare is classified as an X4.9-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.

  • NASA's Many Views of a Massive CME
    2014.09.24
    On July 23, 2012, a massive cloud of solar material erupted off the sun's right side, zooming out into space. It soon passed one of NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, spacecraft, which clocked the CME as traveling between 1,800 and 2,200 miles per second as it left the sun. This was the fastest CME ever observed by STEREO. Two other observatories – NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and the joint European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory — witnessed the eruption as well. The July 2012 CME didn't move toward Earth, but watching an unusually strong CME like this gives scientists an opportunity to observe how these events originate and travel through space. STEREO's unique viewpoint from the sides of the sun combined with the other two observatories watching from closer to Earth helped scientists create models of the entire July 2012 event. They learned that an earlier, smaller CME helped clear the path for the larger event, thus contributing to its unusual speed. Such data helps advance our understanding of what causes CMEs and improves modeling of similar CMEs that could be Earth-directed.
  • Giant Sunspot Continues to Erupt with Substantial Flares
    2014.10.24
    The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 5:40 p.m. EDT on Oct. 24, 2014. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This flare is classified as an X3.1-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc. The flare erupted from a particularly large active region -- labeled AR 12192 -- on the sun that is the largest in 24 years. This is the fourth substantial flare from this active region since Oct. 19. The giant active region on the sun erupted on Oct. 26, 2014, with it's sixth substantial flare since Oct.19. This flare was classified as an X2-class flare and it peaked at 6:56 am EDT. Continuing a week's worth of substantial flares beginning on Oct.19, 2014, the sun emitted two mid-level solar flares on Oct. 26 and Oct. 27. The first peaked at 8:34 pm EDT on Oct. 26, 2014, and the second peaked almost 10 hours later at 6:09 am EDT on Oct. 27. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which constantly observes the sun, captured images of both flares. A large active region on the sun erupted with another X-class flare, an X2.0, on Oct. 27, 2014 -- its fourth since Oct. 24. The flare peaked at 10:47 a.m. EDT. The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, an M6.6-class, peaking at 11:32 pm EDT on Oct. 28, 2014
  • NASA's IRIS Spots Its Largest Solar Flare
    2014.02.21
    On Jan. 28, 2014, NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, witnessed its strongest solar flare since it launched in the summer of 2013. Solar flares are bursts of x-rays and light that stream out into space, but scientists don't yet know the fine details of what sets them off. IRIS peers into a layer of the sun's lower atmosphere just above the surface, called the chromosphere, with unprecedented resolution. However, IRIS can't look at the entire sun at the same time, so the team must always make decisions about what region might provide useful observations. On Jan. 28, scientists spotted a magnetically active region on the sun and focused IRIS on it to see how the solar material behaved under intense magnetic forces. At 2:40 p.m. EST, a moderate flare, labeled an M-class flare — which is the second strongest class flare after X-class – erupted from the area, sending light and x-rays into space. IRIS studies the layer of the sun’s atmosphere called the chromosphere that is key to regulating the flow of energy and material as they travel from the sun's surface out into space. Along the way, the energy heats up the upper atmosphere, the corona, and sometimes powers solar events such as this flare. IRIS is equipped with an instrument called a spectrograph that can separate out the light it sees into its individual wavelengths, which in turn correlates to material at different temperatures, velocities and densities. The spectrograph on IRIS was pointed right into the heart of this flare when it reached its peak, and so the data obtained can help determine how different temperatures of plasma flow where, giving scientists more insight into how flares work.
  • Graceful Eruption
    2014.04.04
    On April 2, 2014, the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 10:05 a.m. EDT, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured imagery of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This video from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the flare in a blend of two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light: 304 angstroms and 171 angstroms, colorized in red and yellow, respectively.
  • The Best Observed X-class Flare
    2014.05.07
    On March 29, 2014 the sun released an X-class flare. It was observed by NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS; NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO; NASA's Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager, or RHESSI; the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hinode; and the National Solar Observatory's Dunn Solar Telescope located at Sacramento Peak in New Mexico.

    To have a record of such an intense flare from so many observatories is unprecedented. Such research can help scientists better understand what catalyst sets off these large explosions on the sun. Perhaps we may even some day be able to predict their onset and forewarn of the radio blackouts solar flares can cause near Earth – blackouts that can interfere with airplane, ship and military communications.

  • Firework Flare
    2014.07.09
    This movie from NASA’s SDO shows a solar flare — the bright light on the left side of the sun — on July 8, 2014. An eruption of solar material can also be seen arcing up and away. After it left the sun, this became a coronal mass ejection, a giant cloud of solar material, headed toward Mars.
  • Late Summer M5 Solar Flare - August, 24, 2014
    2014.08.25
    On Aug. 24, 2014, the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 8:16 a.m. EDT. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the flare, which erupted on the left side of the sun. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. To see how this event may affect Earth, please visit NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government's official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings. This flare is classified as an M5 flare. M-class flares are ten times less powerful than the most intense flares, called X-class flares.

    Visit the SDO site.

    All Video and Image Credit: NASA/SDO

  • September 10, 2014 X1.6 flare
    2014.09.11
    The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 1:48 p.m. EDT on Sept. 10, 2014. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground. However — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This flare is classified as an X1.6 class flare. "X-class" denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.
  • The Difference Between CMEs and Flares
    2014.09.22
    Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and flares are both solar events, but they are not the same. This video shows the differences between the two by highlighting specific features of each.
  • NASA's Many Views of a Massive CME
    2014.09.24
    On July 23, 2012, a massive cloud of solar material erupted off the sun's right side, zooming out into space. It soon passed one of NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, spacecraft, which clocked the CME as traveling between 1,800 and 2,200 miles per second as it left the sun. This was the fastest CME ever observed by STEREO. Two other observatories – NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and the joint European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory — witnessed the eruption as well. The July 2012 CME didn't move toward Earth, but watching an unusually strong CME like this gives scientists an opportunity to observe how these events originate and travel through space. STEREO's unique viewpoint from the sides of the sun combined with the other two observatories watching from closer to Earth helped scientists create models of the entire July 2012 event. They learned that an earlier, smaller CME helped clear the path for the larger event, thus contributing to its unusual speed. Such data helps advance our understanding of what causes CMEs and improves modeling of similar CMEs that could be Earth-directed.
  • Sun Emits Mid-Level Flare on October 2, 2014
    2014.10.03
    The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 3:01 p.m. EDT on Oct. 2, 2014. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun 24-hours a day, captured images of the flare. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This flare is classified as an M7.3 flare. M-class flares are one-tenth as powerful as the most powerful flares, which are designated X-class flares.
  • Holiday Lights on the Sun
    2014.12.22
    The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 7:24 p.m. EST on Dec. 19, 2014. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. To see how this event may affect Earth, please visit NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government's official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings. This flare is classified as an X1.8-class flare. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc.

2013

  • Filament Eruption Creates 'Canyon of Fire' on the Sun
    2013.10.24
    A magnetic filament of solar material erupted on the sun in late September, breaking the quiet conditions in a spectacular fashion. The 200,000 mile long filament ripped through the sun's atmosphere, the corona, leaving behind what looks like a canyon of fire. The glowing canyon traces the channel where magnetic fields held the filament aloft before the explosion. Visualizers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. combined two days of satellite data to create a short movie of this gigantic event on the sun.

    In reality, the sun is not made of fire, but of something called plasma: particles so hot that their electrons have boiled off, creating a charged gas that is interwoven with magnetic fields.

    These images were captured on Sept. 29-30, 2013, by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which constantly observes the sun in a variety of wavelengths.

    Different wavelengths help capture different aspect of events in the corona. The red images shown in the movie help highlight plasma at temperatures of 90,000° F and are good for observing filaments as they form and erupt. The yellow images, showing temperatures at 1,000,000° F, are useful for observing material coursing along the sun's magnetic field lines, seen in the movie as an arcade of loops across the area of the eruption. The browner images at the beginning of the movie show material at temperatures of 1,800,000° F, and it is here where the canyon of fire imagery is most obvious. By comparing this with the other colors, one sees that the two swirling ribbons moving farther away from each other are, in fact, the footprints of the giant magnetic field loops, which are growing and expanding as the filament pulls them upward.

  • Five Days of Flares and CMEs
    2013.10.29
    This movie shows 23 of the 26 M- and X-class flares on the sun between 18:00 UT Oct. 23 and 15:00 UT Oct. 28, 2013, as captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. It also shows the coronal mass ejections — great clouds of solar material bursting off the sun into space — during that time as captured by the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.
  • Jewel Box Sun
    2013.12.17
    Telescopes help distant objects appear bigger, but this is only one of their advantages. Telescopes can also collect light in ranges that our eyes alone cannot see, providing scientists ways of observing a whole host of material and processes that would otherwise be inaccessible.

    A new NASA movie of the sun based on data from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, shows the wide range of wavelengths – invisible to the naked eye – that the telescope can view. SDO converts the wavelengths into an image humans can see, and the light is colorized into a rainbow of colors.

    As the colors sweep around the sun in the movie, viewers should note how different the same area of the sun appears. This happens because each wavelength of light represents solar material at specific temperatures. Different wavelengths convey information about different components of the sun's surface and atmosphere, so scientists use them to paint a full picture of our constantly changing and varying star.

    Yellow light of 5800 angstroms, for example, generally emanates from material of about 10,000 degrees F (5700 degrees C), which represents the surface of the sun. Extreme ultraviolet light of 94 angstroms, which is typically colorized in green in SDO images, comes from atoms that are about 11 million degrees F (6,300,000 degrees C) and is a good wavelength for looking at solar flares, which can reach such high temperatures. By examining pictures of the sun in a variety of wavelengths – as is done not only by SDO, but also by NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory and the European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory — scientists can track how particles and heat move through the sun's atmosphere.

  • SDO Provides First Sightings of How
    a CME Forms
    2013.01.31
    On July 18, 2012, a fairly small explosion of light burst off the lower right limb of the sun. Such flares often come with an associated eruption of solar material, known as a coronal mass ejection or CME — but this one did not. Something interesting did happen, however. Magnetic field lines in this area of the sun's atmosphere, the corona, began to twist and kink, generating the hottest solar material — a charged gas called plasma — to trace out the newly-formed slinky shape. The plasma glowed brightly in extreme ultraviolet images from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) aboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and scientists were able to watch for the first time the very formation of something they had long theorized was at the heart of many eruptive events on the sun: a flux rope.

    Eight hours later, on July 19, the same region flared again. This time the flux rope's connection to the sun was severed, and the magnetic fields escaped into space, dragging billions of tons of solar material along for the ride — a classic CME.

    More than just gorgeous to see, such direct observation offers one case study on how this crucial kernel at the heart of a CME forms. Such flux ropes have been seen in images of CMEs as they fly away from the sun, but it's never been known — indeed, has been strongly debated — whether the flux rope formed before or in conjunction with a CME's launch. This case shows a clear-cut example of the flux rope forming ahead of time.

    Watch this video on YouTube.

  • SDO Sees Fiery Looping Rain on the Sun
    2013.02.20
    Eruptive events on the sun can be wildly different. Some come just with a solar flare, some with an additional ejection of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME), and some with complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun's atmosphere, the corona.

    On July 19, 2012, an eruption occurred on the sun that produced all three. A moderately powerful solar flare exploded on the sun's lower right hand limb, sending out light and radiation. Next came a CME, which shot off to the right out into space. And then, the sun treated viewers to one of its dazzling magnetic displays — a phenomenon known as coronal rain.

    Over the course of the next day, hot plasma in the corona cooled and condensed along strong magnetic fields in the region. Magnetic fields, themselves, are invisible, but the charged plasma is forced to move along the lines, showing up brightly in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 304 angstroms, which highlights material at a temperature of about 50,000 Kelvin. This plasma acts as a tracer, helping scientists watch the dance of magnetic fields on the sun, outlining the fields as it slowly falls back to the solar surface.

    The footage in this video was collected by the Solar Dynamics Observatory's AIA instrument. SDO collected one frame every 12 seconds, and the movie plays at 30 frames per second, so each second in this video corresponds to 6 minutes of real time. The video covers 12:30 a.m. EDT to 10:00 p.m. EDT on July 19, 2012.

    Watch this video on YouTube.

  • Three Years of SDO Images
    2013.04.22
    In the three years since it first provided images of the sun in the spring of 2010, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has had virtually unbroken coverage of the sun's rise toward solar maximum, the peak of solar activity in its regular 11-year cycle. This video shows those three years of the sun at a pace of two images per day. Each image is displayed for two frames at a 29.97 frame rate.

    SDO's Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) captures a shot of the sun every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths. The images shown here are based on a wavelength of 171 angstroms, which is in the extreme ultraviolet range and shows solar material at around 600,000 Kelvin. In this wavelength it is easy to see the sun's 25-day rotation as well as how solar activity has increased over three years.

    During the course of the video, the sun subtly increases and decreases in apparent size. This is because the distance between the SDO spacecraft and the sun varies over time. The image is, however, remarkably consistent and stable despite the fact that SDO orbits the Earth at 6,876 miles per hour and the Earth orbits the sun at 67,062 miles per hour.

    Such stability is crucial for scientists, who use SDO to learn more about our closest star. These images have regularly caught solar flares and coronal mass ejections in the act, types of space weather that can send radiation and solar material toward Earth and interfere with satellites in space. SDO's glimpses into the violent dance on the sun help scientists understand what causes these giant explosions — with the hopes of some day improving our ability to predict this space weather.

    The four wavelength view at the end of the video shows light at 4500 angstroms, which is basically the visible light view of the sun, and reveals sunspots; light at 193 angstroms which highlights material at 1 million Kelvin and reveals more of the sun's corona; light at 304 angstroms which highlights material at around 50,000 Kelvin and shows features in the transition region and chromosphere of the sun; and light at 171 angstroms.

    Noteworthy events that appear briefly in the main sequence of this video:

    00:30;24 Partial eclipse by the moon

    00:31;16 Roll maneuver

    01:11;02 August 9, 2011 X6.9 Flare, currently the largest of this solar cycle

    01:28;07 Comet Lovejoy, December 15, 2011

    01:42;29 Roll Maneuver

    01:51;07 Transit of Venus, June 5, 2012

    02:28;13 Partial eclipse by the moon

    Watch this video on YouTube.

  • NASA's Heliophysics Fleet Captures May 1, 2013 Prominence Eruption and CME
    2013.05.07
    On May 1, 2013, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) watched as an active region just around the East limb (left edge) of the sun erupted with a huge cloud of solar material—a heated, charged gas called plasma. This eruption, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, sent the plasma streaming out through the solar system. Viewing the sun in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 304 angstroms, SDO provided a beautiful view of the initial arc as it left the solar surface.

    Such eruptions soon leave SDO's field of view, but other satellites in NASA's Heliophysics fleet can pick them up, tracking such space weather to determine if they are headed toward Earth or spacecraft near other planets. With advance warning, many space assets can be put into safe mode and protect themselves from the effects of such particle radiation.

    In addition to the images captured by SDO, the May 1, 2013 CME was also observed by the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). SOHO houses two overlapping coronagraphs—telescopes where the bright sun is blocked by a disk so it doesn't overpower the fainter solar atmosphere—and they both saw the CME continue outward. The LASCO C2 coronagraph shows the region out to about 2.5 million miles. The LASCO C3 coronagraph expands even farther out to around 13.5 million miles. Both of these instruments show the CME as it expands and becomes fainter on its trip away from the sun.

    NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) Ahead satellite saw the eruption from a very different angle. It, along with its twin STEREO Behind, is orbiting at a similar distance as Earth. STEREO-A orbits slightly faster than Earth and STEREO-B orbits slightly slower. Currently, STEREO-A is more than two-thirds of the way to being directly behind the sun, and has a view of the far side of the sun. From this perspective, the CME came off the right side of the sun. STEREO has an extreme ultraviolet camera similar to SDO's, but it also has coronagraphs like SOHO. As a result, using its two inner coronagraphs, it was able to track the CME from the solar surface out to 6.3 million miles.

    Working together, such missions provide excellent coverage of a wide variety of solar events, a wealth of scientific data—and lots of beautiful imagery.

    Watch this video on YouTube.

  • First X-Class Solar Flares of 2013
    2013.05.13
    On May 13, 2013, the sun emitted an X2.8-class flare, peaking at 12:05 p.m. EDT. This is the the strongest X-class flare of 2013 so far, surpassing in strength the X1.7-class flare that occurred 14 hours earlier. It is the 16th X-class flare of the current solar cycle and the third-largest flare of that cycle. The second-strongest was an X5.4 event on March 7, 2012. The strongest was an X6.9 on Aug. 9, 2011.

    On May 12, 2013, the sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 10 p.m. EDT. This flare is classified as an X1.7, making it the first X-class flare of 2013. The flare was also associated with another solar phenomenon, called a coronal mass ejection (CME) that can send solar material out into space. This CME was not Earth-directed.

    The May 12 flare was also associated with a coronal mass ejection, another solar phenomenon that can send billions of tons of solar particles into space, which can affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground. Experimental NASA research models show that the CME left the sun at 745 miles per second and is not Earth-directed, however its flank may pass by the STEREO-B and Spitzer spacecraft, and their mission operators have been notified. If warranted, operators can put spacecraft into safe mode to protect the instruments from solar material. There is some particle radiation associated with this event, which is what can concern operators of interplanetary spacecraft since the particles can trip computer electronics on board.

  • X Marks the Spot: SDO Sees Reconnection
    2013.07.15
    Two NASA spacecraft have provided the most comprehensive movie ever of a mysterious process at the heart of all explosions on the sun: magnetic reconnection.

    Magnetic reconnection happens when magnetic field lines come together, break apart, and then exchange partners, snapping into new positions and releasing a jolt of magnetic energy. This process lies at the heart of giant explosions on the sun such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections, which can fling radiation and particles across the solar system.

    Magnetic field lines, themselves, are invisible, but the sun's charged plasma particles course along their length. Space telescopes can see that material appearing as bright lines looping and arcing through the sun’s atmosphere, and so map out the presence of magnetic field lines.

    Looking at a series of images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), scientists saw two bundles of field lines move toward each other, meet briefly to form what appeared to be an “X” and then shoot apart with one set of lines and its attendant particles leaping into space and one set falling back down onto the sun.

    To confirm what they were seeing, the scientists turned to a second NASA spacecraft, the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI). RHESSI collects spectrograms, a kind of data that can show where exceptionally hot material is present in any given event on the sun. RHESSI showed hot pockets of solar material forming above and below the reconnection point, an established signature of such an event. By combining the SDO and RHESSI data, the scientists were able to describe the process of what they were seeing, largely confirming previous models and theories, while revealing new, three-dimensional aspects of the process.

  • What is a Sungrazing Comet?
    2013.07.16
    Sungrazing comets are a special class of comets that come very close to the sun at their nearest approach, a point called perihelion. To be considered a sungrazer, a comet needs to get within about 850,000 miles from the sun at perihelion. Many come even closer, even to within a few thousand miles.

    Being so close to the sun is very hard on comets for many reasons. They are subjected to a lot of solar radiation which boils off their water or other volatiles. The physical push of the radiation and the solar wind also helps form the tails. And as they get closer to the sun, the comets experience extremely strong tidal forces, or gravitational stress. In this hostile environment, many sungrazers do not survive their trip around the sun. Although they don't actually crash into the solar surface, the sun is able to destroy them anyway.

    Many sungrazing comets follow a similar orbit, called the Kreutz Path, and collectively belong to a population called the Kreutz Group. In fact, close to 85% of the sungrazers seen by the SOHO satellite are on this orbital highway. Scientists think one extremely large sungrazing comet broke up hundreds, or even thousands, of years ago, and the current comets on the Kreutz Path are the leftover fragments of it. As clumps of remnants make their way back around the sun, we experience a sharp increase in sungrazing comets, which appears to be going on now. Comet Lovejoy, which reached perihelion on December 15, 2011 is the best known recent Kreutz-group sungrazer. And so far, it is the only one that NASA's solar-observing fleet has seen survive its trip around the sun.

    Comet ISON, an upcoming sungrazer with a perihelion of 730,000 miles on November 28, 2013, is not on the Kreutz Path. In fact, ISON's orbit suggests that it may gain enough momentum to escape the solar system entirely, and never return. Before it does so, it will pass within about 40 million miles from Earth on December 26th. Assuming it survives its trip around the sun.

2012

  • Gradient Sun
    2012.10.18
    Watching a particularly beautiful movie of the sun helps show how the lines between science and art can sometimes blur. But there is more to the connection between the two disciplines: science and art techniques are often quite similar, indeed one may inform the other or be improved based on lessons from the other arena. One such case is a technique known as a "gradient filter" — recognizable to many people as an option available on a photo-editing program. Gradients are, in fact, a mathematical description that highlights the places of greatest physical change in space. A gradient filter, in turn, enhances places of contrast, making them all the more obviously different, a useful tool when adjusting photos. Scientists, too, use gradient filters to enhance contrast, using them to accentuate fine structures that might otherwise be lost in the background noise. On the sun, for example, scientists wish to study a phenomenon known as coronal loops, which are giant arcs of solar material constrained to travel along that particular path by the magnetic fields in the sun's atmosphere. Observations of the loops, which can be more or less tangled and complex during different phases of the sun's 11-year activity cycle, can help researchers understand what's happening with the sun's complex magnetic fields, fields that can also power great eruptions on the sun such as solar flares or coronal mass ejections.

    The images here show an unfiltered image from the sun next to one that has been processed using a gradient filter. Note how the coronal loops are sharp and defined, making them all the more easy to study. On the other hand, gradients also make great art. Watch the movie to see how the sharp loops on the sun next to the more fuzzy areas in the lower solar atmosphere provide a dazzling show.

  • HD Close up of March 6th X5.4 Flare
    2012.03.07
    The sun erupted with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle on March 6, 2012 at 7PM ET. ?This flare was categorized as an X5.4, making it the second largest flare — after an X6.9 on August 9, 2011 — since the sun's activity segued into a period of relatively low activity called solar minimum in early 2007. The current increase in the number of X-class flares is part of the sun's normal 11-year solar cycle, during which activity on the sun ramps up to solar maximum, which is expected to peak in late 2013.

    About an hour later, at 8:14 PM ET, March 6, the same region let loose an X1.3 class flare. ?An X1 is 5 times smaller than an X5 flare.

    These X-class flares erupted from an active region named AR 1429 that rotated into view on March 2. ?Prior to this, the region had already produced numerous M-class and one X-class flare. ?The region continues to rotate across the front of the sun, so the March 6 flare was more Earthward facing than the previous ones. ?It triggered a temporary radio blackout on the sunlit side of Earth that interfered with radio navigation and short wave radio.

    In association with these flares, the sun also expelled two significant coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are traveling faster than 600 miles a second and may arrive at Earth in the next few days. ?In the meantime, the CME associated with the X-class flare from March 4 has dumped solar particles and magnetic fields into Earth's atmosphere and distorted Earth's magnetic fields, causing a moderate geomagnetic storm, rated a G2 on a scale from G1 to G5. ?Such storms happen when the magnetic fields around Earth rapidly change strength and shape. ?A moderate storm usually causes aurora and may interfere with high frequency radio transmission near the poles. ?This storm is already dwindling, but the Earth may experience another enhancement if the most recent CMEs are directed toward and impact Earth.

    In addition, last night's flares have sent solar particles into Earth's atmosphere, producing a moderate solar energetic particle event, also called a solar radiation storm. These particles have been detected by NASA's SOHO and STEREO spacecraft, and NOAA's GOES spacecraft. ?At the time of writing, this storm is rated an S3 on a scale that goes up to S5. ?Such storms can interfere with high frequency radio communication.

    Besides the August 2011 X-class flare, the last time the sun sent out flares of this magnitude was in 2006. ?There was an X6.5 on December 6, 2006 and an X9.0 on December 5, 2006. Like the most recent events, those two flares erupted from the same region on the sun, which is a common occurrence.

  • Incandescent Sun
    2012.05.23
    This video takes SDO images and applies additional processing to enhance the structures visible. While there is no scientific value to this processing, it does result in a beautiful, new way of looking at the sun. The original frames are in the 171 angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet. This wavelength shows plasma in the solar atmosphere, called the corona, that is around 600,000 Kelvin. The loops represent plasma held in place by magnetic fields. They are concentrated in "active regions" where the magnetic fields are the strongest. These active regions usually appear in visible light as sunspots. The events in this video represent 24 hours of activity on September 25, 2011.
  • SDO's Ultra-high Definition View of 2012 Venus Transit
    2012.06.05
    Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the sun. During its five-year mission, it will examine the sun's atmosphere, magnetic field and also provide a better understanding of the role the sun plays in Earth's atmospheric chemistry and climate. SDO provides images with resolution 8 times better than high-definition television and returns more than a terabyte of data each day.

    On June 5 2012, SDO collected images of the rarest predictable solar event—the transit of Venus across the face of the sun. This event lasted approximately 6 hours and happens in pairs eight years apart, which are separated from each other by 105 or 121 years. The last transit was in 2004 and the next will not happen until 2117.

    The videos and images displayed here are constructed from several wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light and a portion of the visible spectrum. The red colored sun is the 304 angstrom ultraviolet, the golden colored sun is 171 angstrom, the magenta sun is 1700 angstrom, and the orange sun is filtered visible light. 304 and 171 show the atmosphere of the sun, which does not appear in the visible part of the spectrum.

  • Before the Flare: AR1520 and Shimmering Coronal Loops
    2012.07.16
    The sun emitted a large flare on July 12, 2012, but earlier in the week it gave a demonstration of how gorgeous solar activity can be. This movie shows the sun from late July 8 to early July 10 shortly before it unleashed an X-class flare beginning at 12:11 PM EDT on July 12 as captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).
  • Van Gogh Sun
    2012.07.19
    A crucial, and often underappreciated, facet of science lies in deciding how to turn the raw numbers of data into useful, understandable information — often through graphs and images. Such visualization techniques are needed for everything from making a map of planetary orbits based on nightly measurements of where they are in the sky to colorizing normally invisible light such as X-rays to produce "images" of the sun.

    More information, of course, requires more complex visualizations and occasionally such images are not just informative, but beautiful too.

    Such is the case with a new technique created by Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. She creates images of the sun reminiscent of Van Gogh, with broad strokes of bright color splashed across a yellow background. But it's science, not art. The color of each pixel contains a wealth of information about the 12-hour history of cooling and heating at that particular spot on the sun. That heat history holds clues to the mechanisms that drive the temperature and movements of the sun's atmosphere, or corona.

    To look at the corona from a fresh perspective, Viall created a new kind of picture, making use of the high resolution provided by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). SDO's Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) provides images of the sun in 10 different wavelengths, each approximately corresponding to a single temperature of material. Therefore, when one looks at the wavelength of 171 angstroms, for example, one sees all the material in the sun's atmosphere that is a million degrees Kelvin. By looking at an area of the sun in different wavelengths, one can get a sense of how different swaths of material change temperature. If an area seems bright in a wavelength that shows a hotter temperature an hour before it becomes bright in a wavelength that shows a cooler temperature, one can gather information about how that region has changed over time.

    Viall's images show a wealth of reds, oranges, and yellow, meaning that over a 12-hour period the material appear to be cooling. Obviously there must have been heating in the process as well, since the corona isn't on a one-way temperature slide down to zero degrees. Any kind of steady heating throughout the corona would have shown up in Viall's images, so she concludes that the heating must be quick and impulsive — so fast that it doesn't show up in her images. This lends credence to those theories that say numerous nanobursts of energy help heat the corona.

  • August 31, 2012 Magnificent CME
    2012.09.04
    On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun's atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth's magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, with a glancing blow. causing aurora to appear on the night of Monday, September 3.
  • Gradient Sun
    2012.10.18
    Watching a particularly beautiful movie of the sun helps show how the lines between science and art can sometimes blur. But there is more to the connection between the two disciplines: science and art techniques are often quite similar, indeed one may inform the other or be improved based on lessons from the other arena. One such case is a technique known as a "gradient filter" — recognizable to many people as an option available on a photo-editing program. Gradients are, in fact, a mathematical description that highlights the places of greatest physical change in space. A gradient filter, in turn, enhances places of contrast, making them all the more obviously different, a useful tool when adjusting photos. Scientists, too, use gradient filters to enhance contrast, using them to accentuate fine structures that might otherwise be lost in the background noise. On the sun, for example, scientists wish to study a phenomenon known as coronal loops, which are giant arcs of solar material constrained to travel along that particular path by the magnetic fields in the sun's atmosphere. Observations of the loops, which can be more or less tangled and complex during different phases of the sun's 11-year activity cycle, can help researchers understand what's happening with the sun's complex magnetic fields, fields that can also power great eruptions on the sun such as solar flares or coronal mass ejections.

    The images here show an unfiltered image from the sun next to one that has been processed using a gradient filter. Note how the coronal loops are sharp and defined, making them all the more easy to study. On the other hand, gradients also make great art. Watch the movie to see how the sharp loops on the sun next to the more fuzzy areas in the lower solar atmosphere provide a dazzling show.

  • Sun Grazing Comets as Solar Probes
    2012.12.04
    To observe how winds move high in Earth's atmosphere, scientists sometimes release clouds of barium as tracers to track how the material corkscrews and sweeps around — but scientists have no similar technique to study the turbulent atmosphere of the sun. So researchers were excited in December 2011, when Comet Lovejoy swept right through the sun's corona with its long tail streaming behind it. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured images of the comet, showing how its long tail was buffeted by systems around the sun, offering scientists a unique way of observing movement as if they'd orchestrated the experiment themselves. Since comet tails have ionized gases, they are also affected by the sun's magnetic field, and can act as tracers of the complex magnetic system higher up in the atmosphere. Comets can also aid in the study of coronal mass ejections and the solar wind.

    Watch this video on YouTube.

  • Space Weather FAQ Interviews
    2012.04.24
    NASA scientists answer some frequently asked questions about the sun, space weather, and the effects on Earth. Each video is one or more scientists responding to the question above it. The videos are available as ProRes files for broadcast use and have had minor audio equalizing and color correction applied.

    The scientists interviewed are:

    Dr. Holly Gilbert, NASA Heliophysicist
    Dr. Alex Young, NASA Heliophysicist
    Dr. Phil Chamberlin, NASA Research Heliophysicist and SDO Deputy Project Scientist

    There are also two short videos created with this interview content. They are available here.

    Additional responses to these questions are available upon specific request.

    For space weather-related footage, animations, and features, visit the Space Weather gallery.

  • NASA Scientists Answer Top Space Weather Questions
    2012.04.24
    NASA scientists answer some common questions about the sun, space weather, and how they affect the Earth. This is a two-part series.

    Part One addresses:

    1. What is space weather?

    2. What are coronal mass ejections?

    3. What are solar flares?

    4. What are solar energetic particles?

    5. What causes flares and CMEs?

    Part Two addresses:

    1. Do all flares and CMEs affect the Earth?

    2. What happens when a flare or CME hits the Earth?

    3. How quickly can we feel the effects of space weather?

    4. Why are there more flares and CMEs happening now?

    For more information about all these questions and more, visit NASA's Space Weather FAQ.

    For individual interview responses to frequently asked space weather questions, go here.

2011

  • SDO Catches Surf Waves on the Sun
    2011.06.07
    Scientists have spotted the iconic surfer's wave rolling through the atmosphere of the sun. This makes for more than just a nice photo-op: the waves hold clues as to how energy moves through that atmosphere, known as the corona.

    Since scientists know how these kinds of waves — initiated by a Kelvin-Helmholtz instability if you're being technical — disperse energy in the water, they can use this information to better understand the corona. This in turn, may help solve an enduring mystery of why the corona is thousands of times hotter than originally expected.

    Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities occur when two fluids of different densities or different speeds flow by each other. In the case of ocean waves, that's the dense water and the lighter air. As they flow past each other, slight ripples can be quickly amplified into the giant waves loved by surfers. In the case of the solar atmosphere, which is made of a very hot and electrically charged gas called plasma, the two flows come from an expanse of plasma erupting off the sun's surface as it passes by plasma that is not erupting. The difference in flow speeds and densities across this boundary sparks the instability that builds into the waves.

    In order to confirm this description, the team developed a computer model to see what takes place in the region. Their model showed that these conditions could indeed lead to giant surfing waves rolling through the corona. Seeing the big waves suggests they can cascade down to smaller forms of turbulence too. Scientists believe that the friction created by turbulence — the simple rolling of material over and around itself — could help add heating energy to the corona. The analogy is the way froth at the top of a surfing wave provides friction that will heat up the wave.

  • Massive Solar Eruption Close-up
    2011.06.30
    On June 7, 2011 the Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare with a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME). The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area almost half the solar surface.

    SDO observed the flare's peak at 1:41 AM ET. SDO recorded these images in extreme ultraviolet light that show a very large eruption of cool gas. It is somewhat unique because at many places in the eruption there seems to be even cooler material — at temperatures less than 80,000 K.

    This video uses the full-resolution 4096 x 4096 pixel images at a one minute time cadence to provide the highest quality, finest detail version possible.

    It is interesting to compare the event in different wavelengths because they each see different temperatures of plasma. See the transcript for more notes on this.

    Frames for each wavelength are available on these separate pages: 304, 171, 211, and1700.

  • Revealing the Old Man in the Sun
    2011.07.27
    When one moves through 11 SDO images taken at the same time, and shown in order from the lowest temperature material being imaged to the highest, a funny thing thing happens: the features of a face in the sun begin to appear. The movie underscores the fact that images taken at different wavelengths do reveal different features. The images also start at the sun's surface and gradually move out to the sun's upper corona. Enjoy the show!
  • SDO Sees Comet Lovejoy Survive Close Encounter With Sun
    2011.12.19
    One instrument watching for the comet was the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which adjusted its cameras in order to watch the trajectory. Not only does this help with comet research, but it also helps orient instruments on SDO—since the scientists know where the comet is based on other spacecraft, they can finely determine the position of SDO's mirrors. This first clip from SDO from the evening of Dec 15, 2011 shows Comet Lovejoy moving in toward the sun.

    Comet Lovejoy survived its encounter with the sun. The second clip shows the comet exiting from behind the right side of the sun, after an hour of travel through its closest approach to the sun. By tracking how the comet interacts with the sun's atmosphere, the corona, and how material from the tail moves along the sun's magnetic field lines, solar scientists hope to learn more about the corona. This movie was filmed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in 171 angstrom wavelength, which is typically shown in yellow.

    Credit: NASA/SDO

2010

  • SDO: Commissioning and Handover
    2010.05.18
    In order to provide the clearest scientific data for its entire 5 year mission, SDO had to undergo a rigorous, 2 month testing phase. After giving it an all-clear, the team of people who designed, built and tested the satellite now have to say goodbye as they hand it over to the scientists who will begin collecting data.

2009

  • SDO's Science
    2009.07.02
    These animations and web shorts explain how SDO's instruments will look at the sun and allow us to better predict how the sun will affect us in the future.
  • SDO Engineers Create What Never Was
    2009.09.04
    Scientists discover what there is, but engineers create that which never was. This special group of folks at Goddard Space Flight Center are creators, like any artist, but instead of working with art they are working wiht scientific, mechanical, or electrical things with fantastic problems to solve.

    Watch engineers talk about what it is like to be an engineer as they build, assemble, integrate, and test the Solary Dynamics Observatory (SDO) soon to be launched in early 2010. If you have a strong tendancy towards science and mathematics, and enjoy working and building things with your hands, then you could also come up with creative solutions, to create something, to do a certain job and do it well.

2008

  • Stepping Stones to SDO
    2008.03.11
    NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is currently in the 'integration and test' phase of mission development, (i.e. observatory is now complete with the spacecraft bus, propulsion module and instruments), the ground system is being completed and flight software is being tested. Critical systems testing has already begun and environmental testing of he observatory will be conducted in the near future as they continue towards a launch readiness date of December 1, 2008. This series of short videos shows the SDO spacecraft being assembled and tested with narration by the engineers doing the work. It will be updated until SDO is ready for launch. For more information on SDO, visit the web site http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov
  • SDO: Command Accepted!
    2008.02.26
    Music Video - NASA's Solar Dyamics Observatory (SDO) will help scientists to better understand solar variability and aid in predictions of space weather. The new Ka band antennas at the White Sands Testing Facility in New Mexico will be the go-between the satellite and the SDO Mission Operations Contol Center.
  • NASA's SDO Mission
    2008.03.02
    A new NASA spacecraft called the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will deliver startling images of the sun with ten times more detail than HDTV. The goal of the mission is to help scientists zoom in on solar activity such as sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections, thus improving forcasts of solar storms. The complete script is available. For more information on the Solar Dynamics Observatory, check out their web site at http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov.