Catching a clear view of the sun at sunrise or sunset is a treat, but watching a full year of the sun's activity in mere minutes? That's scientific and cinematic magic.
A new time-lapse video (below), captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, shows the sun's entire 2015 -- and it's awesome.
The footage, released last week, shows the sun in extreme ultraviolet, a wavelength that human eyes normally cannot see. This allows us to view all of the activity that occurs in the sun's atmosphere, including solar filaments (arcs of plasma), coronal mass ejections (large explosions of magnetized plasma) and solar flares (flashes of light caused by the sudden release of energy).
The sun's activity is so hypnotic and graceful that it's easy to forget how insanely hot solar material is. According to NASA, the activity shown in the video is around 600,000 Kelvin -- about 1 million degrees Fahrenheit.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has been observing and recording the sun since 2010. Because it can capture the sun at 10 different wavelengths, the observatory helps scientists see all of the sun's activity and variations, ultimately helping them understand its impact on Earth and our planet's technological systems.
One question that has long bothered scientists, for instance, is why the sun's atmosphere is 300 times hotter than its surface. Evidence from the observatory helped support the hypothesis that intermittent explosive bursts of heat, called nanoflares, are warming the solar atmosphere.
As the side-by-side photo below shows, the sun's different wavelengths are equally mesmerizing. The red photo on the left shows the cooler plasma activity closer to the sun's surface, while the gold shows "the finer strands of plasma looping above the surface," according to NASA.
Just goes to show, heliophysics is really having its moment in the sun.
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