Wow, just wow. This is the Sun as seen by the recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). It’s actually a combined image, showing several different wavelengths at once (blues and greens represent hotter regions than reds). The SDO is the most advanced solar spacecraft ever launched, and it shows in the level of detail visible in this picture. Just look at all that material streaming out into space; ‘space weather’ like that can seriously disrupt satellites. Understanding what’s going on inside the Sun, and therefore predicting the most violent solar events, is one of the main aims of the SDO mission.
Luckily, on 30th March, not long after the SDO instruments were switched on, the Sun obliged those of us who like spectacular first light images (and I think that probably includes everyone) by throwing off a giant solar eruption. And here it is:
(if you can’t see anything there click here…)
I love the sense of scale you get when the movie zooms out to show the whole disc.
Oh, one final thing, even the SDO’s launch produced great pictures when it destroyed a sundog. It was clearly a good omen for the mission!