NASA release a 10-year time-lapse of the Sun

Date:29 June 2020 Author: Adrian Brown

As of June 2020, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has been watching the Sun for over a decade, without stopping. They have now released an hour-long video showing a time-lapse of the Sun from 2 June 2010, to 1 June 2020. Every second in the video accounts for one full day.

“From its orbit in space around the Earth, SDO has gathered 425 million high-resolution images of the Sun, amassing 20 million gigabytes of data over the past 10 years,” said NASA Goddard.

Using “a triad of instruments” SDO captures a photo of the sun every 0.75 seconds. According to NASA, the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) captures an image 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,” they explained.

Only very few moments over the last decade have been missed by SDO. They explain that the dark frames in the video are a result of the Earth or the Moon eclipsing SDO, as they pass between the Sun and the spacecraft.

In 2016, an extended blackout was caused due to a temporary problem with the AIA instrument. However, a week after the malfunction, it was restored. NASA added that whenever you see the Sun off-centre in the video, SDO was calibrating its instruments.

Within the video, a few noteworthy events occur.

  • At 6:20 (7 June 2011) a prominence eruption explodes from the lower right of the sun
  • At 12:24 (5 June 2012) the transit Venus across the sun can be seen. This won’t happen again until 2117.
  • At 13:03 (19 July 2012) a complex loop of magnetic fields and plasma forms and lasts for hours
  • At 13:50 (31 August 2012) the most iconic eruption of this solar cycle bursts from the lower left of the Sun.
  • At 20:25 (29 September 2013 a prominence eruption forms a long ‘canyon’ that is then covered with loops of plasma.
  • At 26:39 (8 October 2014) active regions on the Sun resemble a jack o’ lantern just in time for Halloween
  • At 36:18 (9 May 2016) Mercury transits across the face of the Sun. Smaller and more distant than Venus it is hard to spot
  • At 43:20 (5 July 2017) a large sunspot group spends two weeks crossing the face of the Sun
  • At 44:20 (6 September 2017) the most powerful sequence of flares during this solar cycle crackle for several days, peaking at X9.3
  • At 57:38 (11 November 2019) Mercury transits the Sun once more for SDO. The next transit won’t be until 2032

“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,” said NASA.

Watch the full time-lapse here:

Image: Screenshot from video

Latest Issue :

May / June 2021