Solar Dynamics Observatory: Year 4

Four years after its work began, and following last year’s three years in three minutes, Nasa have released another wondrous short video of a year of selected solar activity as viewed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Video via Nasa Goddard.  Full-screen viewing recommended.  Stunning. [Credit: NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory. Music: Stella Maris courtesy of Moby Gratis]

The sun is always changing and NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is always watching. Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, SDO keeps a 24-hour eye on the entire disk of the sun, with a prime view of the graceful dance of solar material coursing through the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. SDO’s fourth year in orbit was no exception: NASA is releasing a movie of some of SDO’s best sightings of the year, including massive solar explosions and giant sunspot shows.

SDO captures images of the sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which 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 giant explosions of light and x-rays, or coronal loops, which are streams of solar material traveling up and down looping magnetic field lines. The movie shows examples of both, as well as what’s called prominence eruptions, when masses of solar material leap off the sun. The movie also shows a sunspot group on the solar surface. This sunspot, a magnetically strong and complex region appearing in mid-January 2014, was one of the largest in nine years.
Scientists study these images to better understand the complex electromagnetic system causing the constant movement on the sun, which can ultimately have an effect closer to Earth, too: Flares and another type of solar explosion called coronal mass ejections can sometimes disrupt technology in space. Moreover, studying our closest star is one way of learning about other stars in the galaxy. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. built, operates, and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.

  • Charles_Gould


    Are these solar dynamics of sufficient magnitude hold any tangible risks for organisms on this planet?

  • Pete Baker

    Well, Charles, not those solar dynamics.

    We’d have known about it by now… 😉

  • David Crookes

    What a privilege. Thanks, Pete. The very best entertainment is reality.

    (Which explains why so many people read Slugger.)

  • Charles,

    We never know (usually) when our individual end of life is nigh and the same is true for all of us as a group through a catastrophic event be it from an asteroid or a hitherto unseen solar coronal mass release. So, as the song says, Don’t worry, be happy.

  • Greenflag

    In the name of the Sol, our Sun, and the Blue Water Rock (Earth) ) and by the fortuitous interventions of Great Jove over eons we fortunate few ( 7 billion ) are extremely lucky to exist in this universe . Sol is only one of 100 billion in the Milky Way galaxy and there are 200 billion galaxies .

    In 4 billion years Sol will expand to gobble up Mercury , Venus and the Earth . Humanity won’t be around to witness the event but bacteria probably will 😉

    @ Charles Gould ,

    It’s conjectured /theorised that one of the causes of the 5 major mass life exterminations on Earth and 14 less major extinctions may have originated with Sol via a solar coronal mass release- much greater than what we see in Pete’s solar flare’s link. The theory is that such a force could knock out /disturb/penetrate the Earths atmosphere/ozone layer for a long enough period to put an end to any life species in it’s path .

    But as Joe says – don’t worry -be happy ‘

    Thanks again Pete for the pyrotechnics and keep praying to Great Jove to protect us .