As of June 2020, POTThe Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has been observing the Sun non-stop for more than a decade. From its orbit in space around Earth, SDO has collected 425 million high-resolution images of the Sun, accumulating 20 million gigabytes of data in the past 10 years. This information has allowed countless new discoveries about how our closest star works 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 only captures images every 12 seconds at 10 different wavelengths of light. This 10-year span shows photos taken at a 17.1 nanometer wavelength, which is an extreme ultraviolet wavelength showing the Sun’s outermost atmospheric layer – the corona. Compiling one photo every hour, the film condenses a decade of the Sun into 61 minutes. The video shows the rise and fall of activity that occurs as part of the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and notable events such as transiting planets and eruptions. The personalized music, titled “Solar Observer”, was composed by musician Lars Leonhard.
This 10-year time span of the Sun at 17.1 nanometers (an extreme ultraviolet wavelength showing the Sun’s outermost atmospheric layer – the corona) shows the rise and fall of the solar cycle and notable events such as transiting planets and solar flares. Credit: NASA / SDO Goddard Space Flight Center
While SDO has kept an unblinking eye pointing 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 the SDO when passing between the spacecraft and the Sun. A longer power outage in 2016 was caused by a temporary issue with the AIA instrument that was successfully resolved after a week. Images where the Sun is off-center were observed when SDO was calibrating its instruments.
SDO and other NASA missions will continue to observe our Sun for years to come, providing more information about our place in space and information to keep our astronauts and assets safe.
While the above time span is quite condensed, reducing 10 years and millions of images to a video of just over an hour, the following video reduces it to just under a minute: