NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has accomplished an amazing milestone by capturing 100 million photos of the Sun.
The telescope’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) captures images of the sun, in 10 different wavelengths, every 12 seconds, which adds up to 57,600 photos each day. On Monday 20th January, it captured 100 millionth photo of the Sun.
SDO was developed at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on February 10, 2010. There are three instruments on board the SDO: the AIA, the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) and the Helioseismic Magnetic Imager (HMI) . Those three instruments beam back an impressive 1.5 terabytes of data to earth each and every day, with the AIA accounting for around half of it.
The AIA is SDO’s workhorse instrument and captures the sun’s corona, or outer atmosphere layer. The EVE observes extreme ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun, which helps scientists understand why levels of EUV light change. The HMI observes the sun’s magnetic field across the photosphere, the surface of the sun, and the billions of tiny ripples on its surface.
Data from AIA helps physicists understand why the Sun’s magnetic fields are always on the move. Those magnetic fields are driving its internal dynamics and the resultant activity causes solar winds and space weather. The huge number of images gathered in rapid succession and at high definition allows solar physicists to observe and understand fast-moving and transient events occurring deep within the sun’s corona.
According to the solar physicists, the boiling corona surrounding the sun can reach temperatures around 1,000 times hotter than its surface, causing giant eruptions known as solar flares. It also creates space weather that can slam into Earth’s magnetosphere, which threatens satellite damage and power outages.