3 Years of the Sun in 3 Minutes

by Nancy Atkinson on April 22, 2013

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This image is a composite of 25 separate images spanning the period of April 16, 2012, to April 15, 2013. It uses the SDO AIA wavelength of 171 angstroms and reveals the zones on the sun where active regions are most common during this part of the solar cycle. Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/S. Wiessinger

This image is a composite of 25 separate images spanning the period of April 16, 2012, to April 15, 2013. It uses the SDO AIA wavelength of 171 angstroms and reveals the zones on the sun where active regions are most common during this part of the solar cycle.
Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/S. Wiessinger

Since the Solar Dynamics Observatory opened its multi-spectral eyes in space about three years ago, we’ve posted numerous videos and images from the mission, showing incredible views of our dynamic Sun. Scott Wiessinger from Goddard Space Flight Center’s Space Visualization Studio has put together great timelapse compilation of images from the past three years, as well as a one composite still image to “try to encapsulate a timelapse into one static graphic,” he told us via email. “I blended 25 stills from over the last year, and it’s interesting to see the bright bands of active regions.” Scott said he was fascinated by seeing the views of the Sun over a long range of time.

Within the video, (below) there are some great Easter egg hunts – things to see like partial eclipses, flares, comet Lovejoy, and the transit of Venus.

How many can you find?

SDO’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) captures a shot of the sun every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths, but the images shown here are based on a wavelength of 171 Angstroms, which is in the extreme ultraviolet range. It shows solar material at around 600,000 Kelvin. In this wavelength it is easy to see the Sun’s 25-day rotation as well as how solar activity has increased over three years as the Sun’s solar cycle has ramped up towards the peak of activity in its 11-year cycle.

You’ll also notice that during the course of the video, the Sun subtly increases and decreases in apparent size. This is because the distance between the SDO spacecraft and the Sun varies over time. The image is, however, remarkably consistent and stable despite the fact that SDO orbits the Earth at 6,876 miles per hour and the Earth orbits the sun at 67,062 miles per hour.

See more views, wavelengths and information at this page at the Space Visualization Studio website.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

"Me" April 22, 2013 at 8:45 PM

The surprising thing is our star is not as active as what we all thought it would be in 2012-2013. All we can do is continue to watch.

Friv 2 April 23, 2013 at 12:18 AM

Awesome. I love our Sun. Not because it is our life, I love its beauty

Aqua4U April 23, 2013 at 6:05 AM

Beautiful.. and fascinating – a hypnotic reverie. I liked the multispectral composition most… comparing spot locations with other frequencies of light mind blowing. SDO has turned out to be every thing and MORE than promised, with more to follow! YES!

"Me" April 23, 2013 at 3:38 PM

Yes, agree to some point. But not as active as we here in our views here in Cambridge, MA.. The solar max actually slower than we all expected. Do you see it that way also? There was more fire works here than the sun ever was. What a sad week of events…take care.

Aqua4U April 23, 2013 at 7:13 PM

I’ve been out twice today to see that big ol group of sun spots ‘slide around the corner’. SpaceWeather’s image today is SO MUCH better than my projected image technique, but I’m a ‘hands on’ visual observer who appreciates knowing exactly what I’m looking at!

"Me" April 23, 2013 at 7:22 PM

Good for you! I remember you telling me before your hands on. The solar-max is from 2012, now, & till about approx. this time next year. Does the sun know that?…lol. Nope. He’ll burp when his magnetic field(s) twists itself. So unpredictable is Ole-Man-Sol. However the CME’s do alarm me for obvious reasons we both know. ..take care H2o4U.

lcrowell April 23, 2013 at 3:43 PM

It is interesting that magnetic fields that are near the equator contribute to most of this activity. The fields trapped in the solar material near the surface can gain energy and burst through the surface.

LC

Aqua4U April 23, 2013 at 6:44 PM

Seeing the overall elemental ionization process as a dynamic thru time reveals evolution of the co-relevant magnetic field patterns as never before. The elements within the solar plasma fluctuate in a syncopated pattern(s) as revealed by AIA’s four telescopes at nine total wavelengths. I like the succession of the rotating ‘chevron’ shaped coronal holes! Are these what the magnetic interface between two or more rotating but oppositely charged plasma induced magnetic toroids would look like? Given rotational forces/Coriolis forces are part of the equation…

Aqua4U April 23, 2013 at 6:57 PM

Lil nit? I would like to see the four freq. images right next to each other in a cube shape with the nomenclature outside… OR perhaps displayed for cross eyed 3D viewing?

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