Category Archives: SDO

Swirling Plasma

From the SDO site:

A small, but complex mass of plasma gyrated and spun about over the course of 40 hours above the surface of the Sun (Sept. 1-3, 2015). It was stretched and pulled back and forth by powerful magnetic forces but not ripped apart in this sequence. The temperature of the ionized iron particles observed in this extreme ultraviolet wavelength of light was about 2.8 million degrees C. (or 5 million degrees F.)

Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA.


Solar Flare


Yesterday morning at 07:40 UT / 03:40 ET the Solar Dynamics Observatory took this image of a mid-level solar flare.

I found about the flare at a little after 08:00 / 04:00. The flare was an M 5.6 so I thought it might give us an aurora especially given the geometry. So I real quick fed the cat and dog and went charging outside looked up and saw a black sky and not a star in sight.

The clouds were there to stay. Maybe next time.

Image: SDO

Solar Arch

A beautiful arch forms on the Sun and is watched by the SDO.

From the SDO webpage:
Magnetically charged particles formed a nicely symmetrical arch at the edge of the Sun as they followed the magnetic field lines of an active region (Aug.4-5, 2015). Before long the arch begins to fade, but a fainter and taller arch appears for a time in the same place. Note that several other bright active regions display similar kinds of loops above them. These images of ionized iron at about one million degrees were taken in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light.

There is a 30 hour timelapse video and worth a look if you have a decent connection.

Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA.

Coronal Mass Ejection

The Solar Dynamics Observatory gives us this great view of a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the side of the Sun. The image is captured in the 304 Angstrom Wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light on 17 to 18 June 2015.


Had this CME been directed towards Earth there could have been impacts like those we always hear about, namely communication and power disruptions. The news media usually likes to tell us how bad things could be and sometimes we ignore what they say because, well, they always say it. The truth is all of that stuff could happen and be as bad as they like to say OR anywhere along a continuum between just a beautiful aurora and that  doom and gloom scenario.

Being a ham radio operator I can tell you communications disruptions are not really uncommon in such events, they can be kind of fun too. Commercial communication problems would not be fun and we have been on the LUCKY side of things so far.

Anyway, enough rambling; there is a great video of this CME, a four hour period is represented.

Take your pick of videos, they are the same just different formats.  (Links to the SDO site): – mov
CME304_June_sm.mp4 – mp4

Filament 304

A filament on the Sun.  Image: NASA / SDO
A filament on the Sun. Image: NASA / SDO

Filaments are relatively cooler and denser regions in the chromosphere that have been stretched along magnetic field lines. The bright patches could be plages, hot spots in the chromosphere and possibly future sunspots.

Check out the movie on the SDO link below.

From the SDO website:

A dark, solar filament hovered above the Sun’s surface, extending across more than half the Sun (Feb. 7-10, 2015). If that filament were straightened out, it would be more than 533,000 miles long, longer than 67 Earths. These images were taken in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet wavelength of light of material heated to about 60,000 degrees C. Filaments are cooler clouds of particles tethered above the Sun by powerful magnetic forces. Though this one has been fairly stable for many days, they are liable to break apart at any time. Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory/NASA.

Huge SDO Milestone

100 millionth image from SDO. Credit: SDO
100 millionth image from SDO. Credit: SDO

Almost hard to imagine, one hundred million images from the Solar Dynamics Laboratory!

Congraduations to the AIA team!

Yesterday, January 19, 2015, at 1749 UTC (12:49 pm ET) the AIA instrument recorded its 100,000,000th image. Here it is, an AIA 193 Å image showing coronal holes in both the northern and southern hemispheres. More information, including some favorite images from team members, is available at the NASA SDO webpage.
The AIA team at LMSAL worked hard to design and build the AIA telescopes, even overcoming a delayed start way back at the beginning of the SDO project. The team continues to operate the instrument, keeping it calibrated and listing the features seen on the Sun. The HMI JSOC team at Stanford University maintains the archive that serves the images to our large and growing number of users.

Impressive Flare

Sunspot group AR2257 produces a flare. Image Credit: NASA/SDO
Sunspot group AR2257 produces a flare. Image Credit: NASA/SDO

A beautiful shot of the Sun by the Solar Dynamics Observatory showing the rather impressive first flare of the new year. The flare was produced by the sunspot group AR2257.

I mentioned last week conditions seemed right for an aurora (from this sunspot group). While I didn’t see an aurora on that time out and an aurora is not likely from this particular flare any longer, I would expect to have other viewing opportunities over the next months as the solar cycle progresses. Flares can become more numerous as the solar cycle passes peak activity. We shall see.

This flare/sunspot group did produce a pulse of UV radiation  that ionized the upper atmosphere over Australia and the Indian Ocean. The ionization could have impacted HF radio frequencies below about 10 Mhz – being a ham operator these events are important.

Could this be the start of increased activity? Possibly and these things can happen quickly. You can be alerted when an aurora is apt to occur from a few sources. Two of my favorites is Aurora Service Europe based in Scandinavia and as always,

Here is the NASA caption released with the image:

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 11:24 p.m. EST on Jan. 12, 2015. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

New Years Sun

The sun on 01 Jan 2015.  Image Credit: NASA/SDO
The sun on 01 Jan 2015. Image Credit: NASA/SDO

An image of the sun on 01 Jan taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The image is dominated by a large coronal hole in the southern hemisphere.  As the sun rotates we should get an idea of the extent of the size.

NASA’s Dean Pesnell explains:

Coronal holes are regions of the corona where the magnetic field reaches out into space rather than looping back down onto the surface. Particles moving along those magnetic fields can leave the sun rather than being trapped near the surface. Those trapped particles can heat up and glow, giving us the lovely AIA images. In the parts of the corona where the particles leave the sun, the glow is much dimmer and the coronal hole looks dark.

Coronal holes were first seen in images taken by astronauts on board NASA’s Skylab space station in 1973 and 1974. They can be seen for a long time, although the exact shape changes all the time. The polar coronal hole can remain visible for five years or longer. Each time a coronal hole rotates by the Earth we can measure the particles flowing out of the hole as a high-speed stream, another source of space weather.

Charged particles in the Earth’s radiation belts are accelerated when the high-speed stream runs into the Earth’s magnetosphere. The acceleration of particles in the magnetosphere is studied by NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission.
As Solar Cycle 24 fades, the number of flares each day will get smaller, but the coronal holes provide another source of space weather that needs to be understood and predicted.

Giant Sunspot

A sunspot almost as big as Jupiter!  Credit: SDO/NASA.
A sunspot almost as big as Jupiter! Credit: SDO/NASA.

From the Solar Dynamics Observatory:

The largest sunspot of this solar cycle has now rotated around so that it is just about facing Earth. The video clip of filtered light images (Oct. 18-22, 2014) show this substantial active region is 125,000 km wide, almost as big as the planet Jupiter, and many times the size of Earth. The region appears to have the kind of unstable magnetic field that suggests it might well produce more solar storms. It has already blasted out three substantial flares and numerous smaller ones. Sunspots are darker, cooler regions of the sun with intense magnetic fields poking out through the surface. Credit: SDO/NASA.

Here’s a close up of the sunspot.