NASA/SDO/AIA/S. Wiessinger
This composite of 25 images taken between April 16, 2012, and April 15, 2013, reveals the sun as a jewel set against the velvet backdrop of space.

Three Years in Three Minutes: Whirling Sun Sparks and Flares in Entrancing Video


The sun is a wondrous thing, enabling Mother Earth to be the life giver that she is. For three years NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has been observing as the golden orb roils with life-infusing fire.

Twirling incessantly like a tireless ballerina, the sun flings sparks and flares into space, each loop of light could hold dozens of Earths. 

Over the past three years the observatory has watched the sun arc its way to solar maximum, which it does every 11 years, and photographed the birth and death of myriad sunspots, flares and coronal mass ejections. Now NASA has distilled these images into three minutes of wonder, choosing two photos per day, to give us this time lapse vision of the sun's daily life. 

Every 12 seconds the observatory’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly takes a photo of the sun in 10 wavelengths, according to NASA.

“The images shown here are based on a wavelength of 171 Angstroms, which is in the extreme ultraviolet range and shows solar material at around 600,000 Kelvin,” says NASA in its statement accompanying the video. “In this wavelength it is easy to see the sun’s 25-day rotation as well as how solar activity has increased over three years.”

Any fluctuations in the sun’s apparent size are caused by the varying distances of the Solar Dynamics Observatory from the sun—the SDO orbits Earth at 6,876 miles per hour, and Earth in turn orbits the sun at 67,062 miles per hour, NASA says.

The observatory can help predict solar eruptions that might affect life here on Earth. NASA has noted a number of “noteworthy events” that appear at certain points during the course of the video below.

00:30;24 Partial eclipse by the moon

00:31;16 Roll maneuver

01:11;02 August 9, 2011 X6.9 Flare, currently the largest of this solar cycle

01:28;07 Comet Lovejoy, December 15, 2011

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Comet Lovejoy Flaunts New Tail

01:42;29 Roll Maneuver

01:51;07 Transit of Venus, June 5, 2012

RELATED: Transit of Venus

02:28;13 Partial eclipse by the moon 

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