Well, not really…… The Sun didn’t do a barrel roll; it was actually the Solar Dynamics Observatory that performed a 360-degree roll about the spacecraft-Sun line. But this video showing the change in perspective of SDO makes it appear as though the Sun suddenly shifted (that’s a new one for 2012 doomsdayers to go crazy over!) This roll maneuver wasn’t just so SDO could have a bit of fun, joyriding out there in its inclined geosynchronous orbit. The roll allows the scientists to remove the instrument optical distortions from the solar images taken by the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) to precisely determine the solar limb.
“Our Sun is the most perfect sphere in the solar system and thanks to the high resolution observations of the HMI instrument, solar scientist can measure if the Sun’s sphere is changing over time as a result of the solar cycle,” the SDO team wrote. “On April 4, 2012 SDO performed its 6th roll and the accumulated data is being studied and reviewed and will later be published in a paper.”
We’ll look forward to reading it after we get our equilibrium back!