NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, a space telescope charged with
watching the sun in unprecedented detail, revealed its first look at the
sun to the world one year ago today.
Since then, the telescope has watched the sun shift from its quietest
period in years to the beginning of a new, active solar cycle. It's
seen loops of plasma that dwarf the Earth tracing the sun's magnetic
field, early stages of massive explosions that send hot charged material
ripping through space, and sunspots dancing across the solar surface.
"This magnificent observatory is exceeding expectations," said former SDO project manager Elizabeth Citrin of NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center. "The images of the sun are spectacular and the scientific value of data is immense."
"The SDO mission is turning out to be our Hubble for the sun," said
NASA solar physicist Madhulika Guhathakurta. "It is already transforming
heliophysics (the science of space weather) in the same way the Hubble
Space telescope has transformed astronomy and cosmology."
In this gallery, we look back at the mind-blowing sun photo factory's greatest hits. Above:
SDO saw its first erupting solar prominence on March 30, 2010. Solar
scientists think the eruption was triggered by a twist in the sun's
magnetic field. When flares like this are directed at Earth, they can wreak havoc with satellites and power grids.