The Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) has just finished its third year of operation, in which it continued to collect scads of fantastic data, thrill researchers all over the world, and produce truly awesome videos for the rest of us.
Seriously, this video looks like something that would come out of George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic, where money is no object and the CGI technicians are the best that can be hired. It’s kind of mind-bending to look at this and realize that it’s real, and we recorded it with an orbiting laboratory.
If you’d like to know more about SDO’s work in Year Three, NASA has a nice write-up. This was my favorite part (emphasis mine):
The second novel highlight of SDO’s third year occurred on June 5, 2012, when Venus crossed in front of the sun, as viewed from Earth – an occurrence that will not happen again for more than 100 years. SDO cameras trained on the transit to help calibrate its instruments and to learn more about Venus’s atmosphere. Since the points at which Venus first touched and later left the sun are known down to minute detail, SDO could use this information to make sure its images are oriented to true solar north – calibrating its orientation to within a tenth of a pixel. Scientists also recorded how the sun’s extreme ultraviolet light traveled through Venus’s atmosphere in order to learn more about what elements exist around the planet.
Or, you could just watch the non-industrial light and magic. (Full screen and HD, yes!)
For a bonus, here’s a video of a triple treat on the sun: a flare, a coronal mass ejection, and coronal rain, all in the same event. Most eruptive events on the sun offer one or maybe two of those, but a triple is cool stuff. The coronal rain is exceptionally awesome: it consists of hot plasma cooling and condensing along the magnetic lines as it rains back onto the sun’s corona, which means it shows us something that is otherwise invisible.
Note: SDO shot one frame every 12 seconds. Since the video plays at 30 fps, each second represents six minutes of real time. Thus, you are watching 21.5 hours of sizzling hot action in just four minutes.