From its orbit in space around the Earth, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has unblinkingly watched the Sun non-stop for over 10 years, capturing about 425 million high-resolution images worth about 20 million gigabytes of data.
SDO uses a triad of instruments to capture an image of the Sun every 0.75 seconds. This video shows the images captured by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) instrument. Though the IAI captures images every 12 seconds at 10 different wavelengths of light, only the photos taken at a wavelength of 17.1 nanometers are showcased. That wavelength corresponds to an extreme ultraviolet wavelength that clearly shows the Sun’s outermost atmospheric layer, or the corona. The video shows the rise and fall in activity that occurs as part of the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and notable events, like transiting planets and eruptions.
The video compiles one photo every hour, condensing a decade of the Sun into 61 minutes. That’s approximately 10 years * 365 days * 24 hours = 87,600 images or @ 24 fps.
The dark frames in the video are caused by Earth or the Moon eclipsing SDO as they pass between the spacecraft and the Sun. A longer blackout in 2016 was caused by a temporary issue with the AIA instrument that was successfully resolved after a week. The images where the Sun is off-center were observed when SDO was calibrating its instruments.
6:20 June 7, 2011– A massive prominence eruption explodes from the lower right of the Sun.
12:24 June 5, 2012– The transit of Venus across the face of the Sun. Won’t happen again until 2117.
13:06 July 19, 2012– A complex loop of magnetic fields and plasma forms and lasts for hours.
13:50 Aug. 31, 2012– The most iconic eruption of this solar cycle bursts from the lower left of the Sun.
20:25 Sept. 29, 2013– A prominence eruption forms a long ‘canyon’ that is then covered with loops of plasma.
26:39 Oct. 8, 2014– Active regions on the Sun resemble a jack o’ lantern just in time for Halloween.
36:18 May 9, 2016– Mercury transits across the face of the Sun. Smaller and more distant than Venus it is hard to spot.
43:20 July 5, 2017– A large sunspot group spends two weeks crossing the face of the Sun.
44:20 Sept. 6, 2017– The most powerful sequence of flares during this solar cycle crackle for several days, peaking at X9.3.
57:38 Nov. 11, 2019– Mercury transits the Sun once more for SDO. The next transit won’t be until 2032.