Blog Archives

Four Years of SDO

It’s hard to believe it’s already been four years that NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has kept a watchful eye on our home star, but here we are: 2014, and the four-year anniversary of the Feb. 11 launch has come and gone. Amazing. But what’s even more amazing are all the incredible observations and discoveries SDO has made of the Sun in that relatively short time!

Check out the video above, a compilation from the talented people over at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, showing some of the best solar sights from SDO over the past four years.

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Watch the Sun’s Skin Split Open (and Then Heal Itself)

Like some kind of stellar superhero (or maybe a cosmic vampire!) our Sun’s surface splits apart and then fuses itself back together in this mesmerizing video from SDO and the folks at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center — check it out!

All right now, while the Sun doesn’t really have skin like we do or a hard surface like the Earth, it does have multiple layers of varying density and temperature, all wrapped and bound and pierced by intense magnetic fields (hm… sounds a little kinky!) This is what we’re seeing here — magnetic fields filled with super-hot solar plasma playing across the Sun. NASA even titled this video “Canyon of Fire” although that’s taking poetic license too… there’s no fire on the Sun.

Still, the event, which occurred on Sept. 29-30, is amazing to watch through SDO’s UV-sensitive eyes! Our home star is quite a dynamic thing (luckily for us and all life on Earth.)

Read more about what’s happening here.

Video credit: NASA/SDO/GSFC

Experience Eclipse Totality (VIDEO)

Totality — that brief period during a solar eclipse when the Moon is completely centered in front of the Sun’s disk — is a truly amazing sight, so much so that many people who have seen it once (a privileged group that doesn’t include me, sadly!) will travel across the globe in an effort witness it again and again.

During solar eclipse totality the sky not only becomes dark, dropping the temperature and sometimes even allowing stars to be seen, but also the Sun’s outer atmosphere is revealed around the silhouette of the Moon for a few short moments. Unfortunately this is not easily captured on camera because of the rapidly changing lighting situations, and when it is it pales in comparison to the real thing (or so I hear.)

“Diamond ring” effect seen during the Nov. 2012 total solar eclipse

The video above, taken during the November 14 eclipse from Queensland, shows the moments of totality pretty nicely although the streamer effect can’t really be made out. Still, we get a good idea of how the light changes and we can see another effect called “Baily’s Beads”, where sunlight peeks through some of the relief of the Moon’s terrain along its outer limb. Also the “diamond ring” effect can be seen as the Sun is uncovered.

Enjoy, and thanks to YouTube user solareclipse eclipsevidgvale for the upload!

“Birthday Candles” on the Sun

A cluster of coronal cells seen by SDO on June 17, 2011. (NASA/SDO AIA instrument)

Make a wish! Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory have identified new “birthday candle” structures in the Sun’s super-hot corona that may shed some light on the way its magnetic fields evolve — especially near the edges of vast, dark, wind-spewing coronal holes.

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A Solar “Danse Macabre”

Dark prominences swap material on the Sun on March 27-28, 2012. (NASA/SDO)

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured a video on March 27 – 28 showing two large areas of “dark” plasma on the Sun’s limb, twisting and spiraling in our star’s complex magnetic field. The southern region bears an uncanny resemblance to three figures swaying to some spooky, unheard music… a real “danse macabre” on the Sun!

Watch the video here.

A Growing Sunspot: AR1416

Active region 1416 doubling in size over the past several days (SDO/HMI)

This animation, made from images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows active region 1416 as it rotated into view over the past week, doubling in size as it approached the center of the Sun’s disk.

According to’s Dr. Tony Phillips, AR1416 is magnetically charged in such a way as to be ready to release an M-class flare at any time. If this happens over the next couple of days, it will be aimed directly at Earth…

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Time For Some Stormy Solar Weather!

Powerful M8.7-class flare from active region 1402 seen by SDO on Jan. 23, 2012.

Any lapse in solar activity we may have seen during this period of “solar maximum” came to an end this weekend with some very energetic flares and CMEs, including the one seen above: an M8.7-class flare spotted by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) at 3:49 UT this morning.

This comes just 4 days after a strong CME sent a cloud of charged solar particles Earthward on Jan. 19, which impacted our magnetosphere on the afternoon of the 22nd, causing brilliant displays of aurorae around the northern latitudes. (See a gallery of aurora photos on Universe Today.)

Today’s flare has the potential of causing the largest solar storm experienced on Earth since 2005… in addition to more aurorae in the coming nights, some electromagnetic interference may occur.

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