NASA’s latest space telescope, the Solar Dynamics Observatory is delivering unprecedented images of our local star.
The telescope was launched February 11. NASA released the first tremendously exciting data from the mission today.
“These initial images show a dynamic sun that I had never seen in more than 40 years of solar research,” said Richard Fisher, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA, in a release. “SDO will change our understanding of the sun and its processes, which affect our lives and society. This mission will have a huge impact on science, similar to the impact of the Hubble Space Telescope on modern astrophysics.”
The sun’s internal dynamics were the subject of intense interest over the last few years as the normal waxing and waning of solar activity did not follow past cycles as closely as anticipated. The solar minimum of 2008 stretched deep into 2009, raising questions about how well we understand the complex internal dynamics that drive sun spots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory is now NASA’s best eye on the sun with a resolution far-exceeding any current telescope. It will send 1.5 terabytes of data to Earth every day. With the more precise data and the SDO’s ability to see the whole sun at once, scientists anticipate that they’ll be able to solve some of the long-standing questions about how the sun’s magnetic field works.
NASA has posted some high-resolution images and video to flickr. In the video embedded above, we see a solar prominence that erupted on March 30th. Below, we can see the whole star at the time of the prominence in the extreme ultraviolet part of the spectrum. Reds map to relatively cool temperatures of around 100,000 degrees Fahrenheit (60,000 Kelvin) while blues and greens represent hotter regions of more than 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit (1,000,000 Kelvin).
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New Space Telescope Delivers First Mind-Blowing Video of the Sun