NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is always following the sun as it orbits the Earth. As part of its ongoing mission, the SDO captures high-resolution images of the sun at regular intervals, allowing scientists to monitor solar activity such as sun spots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections. NASA’s multi-year mission just completed its sixth year of data collection and commemorated that milestone by releasing a stunning time-lapse video of the past year in review.
The six-minute video shows the sun over a period of just over a year, starting from January 1, 2015 and ending on January 28, 2016. The first half of the video shows the time-lapse with some celestial-inspired background music, while the second half explains the features and wavelengths that you are seeing. The ultra-high-definition images are shown on YouTube at a rate of approximately 30 frames per second with a resolution of 3,840 by 1,260 pixels. Each frame of the video corresponds to 2 hours of time on Earth. On its website, NASA also provides a downloadable version of the video that has a 59.94 fps frame rate with each frame representing one hour.
The SDO orbits the Earth, following the sun as it moves. It is capable of capturing images of the sun every 10 seconds using technology that records eight different wavelengths in each full disk image. These pictures capture all aspects of the Sun from its interior to the outer layers of the solar atmosphere. This information then is collected by NASA and used to study details of the sun that are not commonly observed by scientists using ground-based telescopes and other similar technology.
The data is also used to predict solar weather events such as solar wind and solar flares. This advance detection allows businesses, government, and the public to prepare for solar events that can affect technology and other systems that are sensitive to solar activity.