Here Comes the Sun

By Tom Yulsman | April 10, 2013 12:39 am

An image of the sun’s surface captured in March by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. (Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

It never ceases to amaze me that we have instruments capable of showing us what it’s like on the surface of the sun.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory is one of them, and in March, it returned a series of images that NASA has made into a spectacular movie. Click on the image above to see the full animation.

The sun is made mostly of plasma — a soup of electrons, as well as atoms that have lost their electrons, laced with magnetic fields. In this image, and the animation as well, the presence of magnetic fields is visible in the form of gigantic loops leaping and reconnecting with the surface of the sun. Plasma is cooler, and therefore darker.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory, launched on Feb. 11, 2010,  is designed to help scientists gain a better understanding of how the Sun influences the Earth and its nearby space environment. It focuses on the atmosphere of the sun, called the corona.

Right now the sun is relatively quiescent. In late March and early April, there were  some glimmers of increased activity, with a few flares and ejections of material from the corona. But in the last few days the sun has pretty much been napping, with very little activity. One forecast calls for relatively low activity through late April.

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: select, Sun, Top Posts
  • David Gill

    “The Solar Dynamics Observatory, launched on Feb. 11, 201″

    Is that AD or BC? That is one rugged old bird…

  • http://www.facebook.com/swdurham Sean William Durham

    Good catch David. I’m going to assume they meant 2001. If not that observatory must be made from stone and I have no idea how it was propelled.

  • David Gill

    From the SDO web site:

    “SDO launched on February 11, 2010, 10:23 am EST on an Atlas V from SLC 41 from Cape Canaveral.”

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ImaGeo

ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.

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