NASA released a new video of our sun this week, and they added an artistic touch. Titled “Thermonuclear Art,” it shows our star as NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) sees it. Set aside a few minutes and check out the stunning video below.
You gotta give props to the media team at NASA on this one. The video is breathtaking. And it takes a media team about ten hours to create one minute of this footage. That’s 300 hours of work!
The SDO before launch.
Keeping tabs on our Sun 24/7
That’s SDO’s mission. Three instruments stay trained on the sun all day, every day. These instruments give scientists an in-depth look at activity on the Sun including sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. The ultimate goal is to better understand how the sun’s magnetic field is generated and how space weather (like solar flares) forms. And improve forecasting of solar storms.
What’s up with the different colors?
Every 12 seconds, the SDO captures images of the sun in ten different wavelengths. Each wavelength appears as a different color, and more importantly, highlights different parts of the sun’s surface or atmosphere. I’ll touch on the four different wavelengths we see in the video.
The video starts off at 171 Angstroms. This wavelength shows the sun’s atmosphere, also called corona, when it’s relatively calm. The huge arcs are called coronal loops. Material seen at this wavelength is about 600,000 degrees Kelvin, or around a scorching 1 million degrees Fahrenheit.
It might look hotter, but this wavelength shows light emitted from the chromosphere and transition region. Temperatures are a cooler, but still toasty 50,000 degrees Kelvin.
2 million degrees Kelvin. We are looking at magnetically active regions in the corona. Check out 1:55 in the video above to see this activity in action.
We are still looking at magnetically active regions in the corona. But things are a little hotter at 2.5 million degrees Kelvin. That’s a downright hellish 4.4 million degrees Fahrenheit.
That’s all the wavelengths I saw in the video. But what wavelength represents the hottest material? That would be 131 Angstroms and represents flares hitting 10 million degrees Kelvin!
Want to see more incredible images of the sun? Head on over to the SDO gallery page.