PetaPixel

Time-Lapse Shows Three Years in the Life of Our Sun in Three Minutes

This beautiful video shows three years in the life of the Sun in three minutes. The photographs are shown at a pace of two photos for each day. Thus, there are a little over 2000 photos in this video that are shown at around 12 frames per second.

The images were captured by the camera on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which first started snapping pics of the sun back in the Spring of 2010. The goal was to document the sun’s rise toward “solar maximum,” which is when solar activity becomes the most intense in the regular 11-year cycle.

An artist's rendition of the Solar Dynamics Observatory

An artist’s rendition of the Solar Dynamics Observatory

One photograph is captured every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths by the SDO’s camera. The video above is mainly focused on one specific wavelength in the extreme ultraviolet range, though we do see other wavelengths in a mosaic near the end of the video. Here are some photos released with the video showing what the sun looks like at different wavelengths:

"This image, is a composite of 25 separate images spanning the period of April 16, 2012 to April 15, 2013. It uses the SDO AIA wavelength of 171 Angstroms and reveals the zones on the sun where active regions are most common during this part of the solar cycle. This version maintains the original aspect ratio of the AIA instrument imagery."

“This image, is a composite of 25 separate images spanning the period of April 16, 2012 to April 15, 2013. It uses the SDO AIA wavelength of 171 Angstroms and reveals the zones on the sun where active regions are most common during this part of the solar cycle.”

This video shows the sun in the 304 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. It covers a time period of June 2, 2010 to April 15, 2013 at a cadence of one frame per day. Early in the sequence, SDO's coverage was intermittent, so not every day is represented. 304 Angstrom light highlights material around 50,000 Kelvin and shows features in the transition region and chromosphere of the sun.

The 304 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, which highlights material around 50,000 Kelvin and shows features in the transition region and chromosphere of the sun.

This video shows the sun in the 171 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. It covers a time period of June 2, 2010 to April 15, 2013 at a cadence of one frame per day. Early in the sequence, SDO's coverage was intermittent, so not every day is represented. 171 Angstrom light highlights material around 600,000 Kelvin and shows features in the upper transition region and quiet corona of the sun.

The 171 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, which highlights material around 600,000 Kelvin and shows features in the upper transition region and quiet corona of the sun.

This video shows the sun in the 4500 Angstrom wavelength of light. It covers a time period of June 2, 2010 to April 15, 2013 at a cadence of one frame per day. Early in the sequence, SDO's coverage was intermittent, so not every day is represented. 4500 Angstrom light highlights material around 6,000 Kelvin and matches the visible light appearance of the sun. The layer of the sun visible in this wavelength is called the photosphere.

The 4500 Angstrom wavelength of light, which highlights material around 6,000 Kelvin and matches the visible light appearance of the sun. The layer of the sun visible in this wavelength is called the photosphere.

This video shows the sun in the 193 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. It covers a time period of June 2, 2010 to April 15, 2013 at a cadence of one frame per day. Early in the sequence, SDO's coverage was intermittent, so not every day is represented. 193 Angstrom light highlights material around 1 million Kelvin and shows features in the corona and flare plasma. 193 also reveals dark areas called coronal holes where the high-speed solar wind originates.

The 193 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light.

You might not notice certain things about the video unless you know to look out for them. For example, over the course of the three minutes, the sun subtly grows larger and smaller due to the distance between the camera and the sun changing over time. The camera is orbiting Earth at 6,876MPH as the Earth orbits the sun at 67,062MPH.

Other noteworthy things in the video that appear as quick flashes of frames. These include a partial eclipse by the moon at 30s, a roll maneuver at 31s, a major flare at 1m:11s, a comet at 1m:28s, another roll maneuver at 1m:42s, a transit of Venus at 1m:51s, and another partial eclipse of the moon at 2m:28s.


P.S. The song in the video is “A Lady’s Errand of Love” by violinist Martin Lass


Image credits: Video and photographs by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO


 
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  • Ning Liu

    So I guess the sun spins too?

  • noisejammer

    If you skip through to 3m22s, you will see the disc of Venus as it transited the sun on 2012.06.05/06. (The date was dependent on where you were on the earth.) Since Venus is about the size of the earth – but three times closer – you can get an idea of the relative sizes of earth and sun…

    The transits are fairly infrequent phenomena – the next one is in that won’t happen again until 2117.

  • Trenton

    Yep. The Sun’s “day” (sidereal period) is 25 days 1 hour.