What’s the Solar Dynamics Observatory and how does it work?

The Solar Dynamics Observatory helps paint a better picture of what is happening on the sun, which is useful for scientists!

Satellites can give us a really good picture of what’s going on in space!

There are so many – almost 1,300 working satellites – telling us all kinds of things about Earth, the sun, and more.

There’s something else that helps us to get the full picture of solar activity and it’s called the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

One of the cameras on the Solar Dynamics Observatory measures magnetic fields, providing data about what we think is going on under the solar surface.

The other two cameras take measurements in a range of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths.

It’s really cool that these instruments don’t just capture the surface activity – they can study what’s happening inside of the sun too!

A great thing about the Solar Dynamics Observatory is that you can see the downloaded data for yourself online!

You can check out the sunspots and flares on the surface!

Take a look at the data!

On May 1st 2017, NASA celebrated the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s 7th year of collecting data! Happy birthday!

Sun Fact File

  • The sun is around 865,000 miles wide! That’s 110 times bigger than planet Earth!
  • About three-quarters of the Sun is made up of hydrogen. Helium makes up the other quarter.
  • Other elements like oxygen, carbon, iron, and neon make up less than 2% of the rest!
  • Light from the Sun reaches Earth in around 8 minutes. When scientists look at the sun from Earth, they’re looking at it in the past!
  • The sun is 5500 degrees celsius on the surface but is more than 13,600,000 degrees celsius at the core!
  • The sun generates most of its energy by combining hydrogen to helium. This process is called nuclear fusion!

If you want to find out more about space weather, you should check out Deep Space High: Intergalactic Weather Watch! Sam, Stats, and Quark are all taught about solar flares, cosmic rays, coronal mass ejections and more!

You can hear Deep Space High: Intergalactic Weather Watch on:

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Deep Space High: Intergalactic Weather Watch, with support from the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

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