More than three months after being hurled into orbit, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is snapping some breathtaking images of the Sun, the first of which NASA released this afternoon. The mission designers have to be happy with them: the pics capture huge looping prominences lashing out from the surface and the kinds of massive explosions one might expect from a giant, churning ball of cosmic gas.
Click to launch the photo gallery
SDO launched in February to help researchers on the ground gain a better understanding of how processes taking place on the sun affect life on Earth. NASA and its international partners hope that in time SDO provides a wealth of solar data that will help them predict solar weather more accurately than current means allow. SDO views the sun with a resolution ten times greater than that of an HD video camera and carries four telescopes as well as instruments for measuring magnetic motions on the surface and ultraviolet energy output.
Science aside, NASA researchers must be pretty pleased with what SDO is sending back thus far if only from an aesthetic standpoint.