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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Best Sun Images From Solar Space Telescope’s First Year

• Lisa Grossman via WIRED.com

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: First Light

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.

 

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