NASA Solar Observatory’s First Shots

From National Geographic:

Solar Horns
Image courtesy NASA

The Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the full evolution of the March prominence eruption, from its explosive growth to its apparent retraction back into the sun. Above, an image shows the eruption dying down, breaking the loop into a set of “horns.”

The eruption was featured in the first movie taken by Solar Dynamics Observatory’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), one of three main instruments aboard the craft. The imager can take pictures of the sun in ten light wavelengths simultaneously every ten seconds.

“AIA images the full disk of the sun at a pace, and with more channels, than ever before achieved,” said Dean Pesnell, an SDO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. (See more pictures of solar eruptions.)

Crashing Solar Surf
Image courtesy NASA

The same wave (see previous picture) seen at 1.6 million Kelvin (2.8 million degrees Fahrenheit, or 1.5 million degrees Celsius) carves dark pits in the sun’s surface as material gets pushed around at high speeds.

“The sun is constantly changing, and solar events on the sun can cause disturbances to Earth,” said the University of Colorado’s Tom Woods, principle investigator for the SDO’s Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment. For instance, Woods said, a solar storm in 2005 temporarily knocked out radio communications among aid workers a few days after Hurricane Katrina.

Data from SDO will make scientists “better able to be proactive rather than reactive” when it comes to space weather events, he said. (Related: “‘Warm Plasma Cloak’ Discovered Enveloping Earth.”)

Read the rest, here.


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