A decade ago, NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or ‘SDO’. The SDO is tasked with photographing the sun from orbit. This job takes more than a simple camera—the SDO uses a group of complex instruments to take its high-resolution photos.
And just how many high-resolution photos did it take this past decade?
A whopping 425 million photos, or about 20 million gigabytes.
NASA was able to take this data, explore it, and learn much from it about the sun and its effects on our solar system. Going forward in 2020, the SDO will stay in orbit and continue to take photographs that will lead to new findings.
From June 2010 to June 2020, the SDO didn’t catch everything: “The dark frames in the video are caused by Earth or the Moon eclipsing SDO as they pass between the spacecraft and the Sun. A longer blackout in 2016 was caused by a temporary issue with the AIA instrument that was successfully resolved after a week. The images where the Sun is off-center were observed when SDO was calibrating its instruments.”
What it did capture, however, is spectacular:
The video caption is complete with timestamps where the viewer can note prominent and unique events. Eruptions, magnetic fields, plasma forms, sunspots, flares—the time-lapse has it all.
The time-lapse also shows three transits. Transits occur when a body passes in front of the sun. The video shows the transit of Mercury twice as well as the transit of Venus—an event that occurred in 2012 and won’t occur again for more than a century—once.
For the curious viewer, NASA provides article links and video links for a closer look at the different events.
For the less curious viewer, just watching the sun change over a decade is a stunning treat.
Article source: NASA’s time-lapse video and caption
Featured image source: Screen capture of Venus transiting the sun