Diving Deep into the Sun

Credit: NASA/Goddard/SDO AIA Team

Parents and teachers tell you not to look at the Sun. But when Solar Dynamics Observatory is showing you the highest-resolution picture of the Sun ever taken, you can’t help but stop and stare.

Dive deep into the Sun and explore one of the first images of the Sun from NASA’s SDO. This is a close-up of an expanding wave of plasma, called a solar prominence. SDO took this image in extreme ultraviolet light. The light in the image is from plasma that is heated to about 50,000 degrees Kelvin. That’s hotter than a bolt of lightning. A solar prominence is a looped strand of hot plasma shaped by magnetic fields on the Sun’s surface.

What shapes do you see in this looped string of gas from the Sun? Share a comment.

The Sun gives off a range of frequencies from infrared, through visible light and into ultraviolet. A rainbow is that part of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can see. Ultraviolet light has a higher frequency than visible light. We cannot see ultraviolet with our our eyes. SDO also looks at the Sun at many other temperatures and parts of the spectrum.

This prominence as seen by SDO is already changing the way scientists understand the Sun. SDO’s mission is to determine how the Sun’s magnetic field is generated and structured. Scientists also want to understand how violent events, such as turbulent solar wind, solar flares and mass coronal ejections form. These space weather events impact the Earth directly causing magnetic storms that light the aurora and can disrupt GPS, communication and electric grids.

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