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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Five Years of Staring Into the Sun

By Phil Plait

Do you have any idea how jaw-droppingly gorgeous our Sun is?

I do. But then I’ve been keeping my eye on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which stares at the Sun 24 hours a day, week after week. It sends back very high-resolution images of the Sun in wavelengths from the far ultraviolet—where the Sun’s violent magnetic activity is best seen—through to colors our eyes can detect.

Wednesday was the fifth anniversary of SDO’s launch into space. For the past 1,830 days it has observed our star, and seen a lot of stuff. A lot.

To celebrate, NASA released this sensational video with just a few highlights from this incredible machine. Make sure you’re set to hi-def and turn the volume up because this is sheer amazingness.

There’s so much to take in there. Rolling sunspots, eruptive prominences, collapsing filaments, solar flares, the Transit of Venus (twice!) … if you want more, then just search my blog for “SDO.” I’ve written about it many, many times.

I remember when SDO was still being designed and built, back when I worked at Goddard Space Flight Center. I’d go to lunch with friends, solar astronomers, and we’d talk about what this mission would mean, what it would be capable of. I remember thinking it was crazy how much data it would send back to Earth, and how many different things it would see.

Thinking about those conversations makes me smile now. I had no idea. SDO is far more than I imagined, and has revealed our active and complex star far better than anything before it.

My sincere congratulations to all my friends who work on SDO, to everyone who watches our star and learns what they can about it. We’ve gone around that Sun five times since SDO took to the skies. May we have many more revolutions ahead.

Tip o' the dew shield to Jelle Kouwenhoven.

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