SDO Images Complex Mass of Plasma Above Sun’s Surface

September 8, 2015 – A small, but complex mass of solar material gyrated and spun about over the course of 40 hours above the surface of the sun on September 1-3, 2015. It was stretched and pulled back and forth by powerful magnetic forces in this sequence captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO.

The temperature of the ionized iron particles observed in this extreme ultraviolet wavelength of light was about 5 million degrees Fahrenheit.

SDO captures imagery in many wavelengths, each of which represents different temperatures of material, and each of which highlights different events on the sun. Each wavelength is typically colorized in a pre-assigned color. Wavelengths of 335 Angstroms, such as are represented in this picture, are colorized in blue.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is designed to study the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. The spacecraft’s long-term measurements give solar scientists in-depth information to help characterize the interior of the sun, the sun’s magnetic field, the hot plasma of the solar corona, and the density of radiation that creates the ionosphere of the planets. The information is used to create better forecasts of space weather needed to protect aircraft, satellites and astronauts living and working in space.

SDO includes an instrument built in partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and another built by Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California.

Goddard Space Flight Center built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. SDO is the first mission of NASA’s Living with a Star Program. Data from all three SDO instruments (AIA, HMI, and EVE) are used by the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado to create space weather forecasts.

SDO was launched on February 11, 2010 aboard a ULA Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.