Saturday science subject: The Sun in HD


— 3:36 PM on April 24, 2010

A little over two months after departing Earth, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has started beaming back images of the Sun—images that purportedly have "clarity 10 times better than high-definition television."

NASA has already released some choice picks from the 1.5 terabytes of data SDO transfers back home each day. Those include an 18-megapixel photo that shows the full sun under "multiwavelength extreme ultraviolet" light. There's also this video of a solar prominence eruption:

(For a sense of scale, we recommend watching this other YouTube video. The eruption alone could engulf the Earth many, many times over.)

SDO's mission will last five years and, according to NASA, involve studying the Sun's magnetic field, as well as the star's impact on our atmosphere. NASA Heliophysics head Richard Fisher said of the observatory's images, "[They] show a dynamic sun that I had never seen in more than 40 years of solar research." He believes SDO will have "a huge impact on science, similar to the impact of the Hubble Space Telescope on modern astrophysics."

   
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