NASA has created a stunning 61 minutes-long movie of a decade in the life of our Sun.
Called “A Decade of Sun,”, the 10-year time-lapse video of the Sun as taken by its Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is a compilation of 425 million high-resolution images—each taken in extreme ultraviolet light—totalling over 20 gigabytes of data.
The SDO takes one image of the Sun every 0.75 seconds, but the time-lapse includes only one from each hour through the period from 2010 through 2020.
The Sun has a cycle that last, on average, 11 years. You can see that in this video—it waxes, then wanes in power over the course of the time-lapse.
Right now we’re in the trough—called solar minimum—when the Sun produces fewer electrons and protons.
Here’s an image of the Sun at solar minimum—now:
The Sun as it is now—at solar minimum (or thereabouts).
Not much to see.
Here’s one where it’s at a pretty average state of activity—with some sunspots:
The Sun at a quieter point of its solar cycle.
It’s not interesting to show a typical photo of the Sun at solar maximum because it’s a series of events that cannot be captured in a single frame, so instead here’s a very special composite image (below) from NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio that’s made from 151 individual frames from the SDO that span the entire decade.
It therefore shows many of the big solar events from the entire recent solar cycle.
So what happened to the Sun during the last decade?
This composite image is made from 151 individual SDO frames. They span the full ten-year run of the … [+]
Put to some specially composed music—“Solar Observer” by Lars Leonhard—the incredible time-lapse includes a few highlights, as outlined by Astronomy.com:
- A rare “transit of Venus” on June 5, 2012. You can see the second planet from the Sun cross its face at 12 minutes 24 seconds. Here’s a close-up. The next one is in the year 2117.
- A huge coronal mass ejection (CME) on August 31, 2012. See it at 13 minutes 50 seconds. Here’s a close-up.
- A “canyon of fire” in September 2013 as a 200,000 mile long filament rips through the Sun’s corona. It’s at 20 minutes 25 seconds. Here’s a close-up.
The last solar maximum was in 2013/2014, but was was ranked among the weakest on record.
It’s thought that the Sun will reach solar maximum in the mid-2020s—perhaps in time for North America’s next total solar eclipse.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes