April 22nd, 2010


Astro-Porn of the Day: Holy Solar Prominence, Batman!

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, a new space telescope whose mission is to study the Sun, rocketed into space in February and started sending back images and video a couple of weeks ago. The images on this page (and the videos they're linked to) are the observatory's "first light"; that is, its very first images. You've never seen the Sun like this, I promise.

This first image links to the main story that has several more incredible photos and even more amazing videos; take the time to let them load because, WOW. For example, this photo shows how the Sun looks in the extreme ultraviolet; the colors signify temperatures ranging from relatively "cool" red (60,000° Kelvin - cool only on the surface of a star, folks) to medium-temp oranges and yellows to hot blues and greens (over 1,000,000° K):

Click the image to see the story and lots of videos.

Here's a gosh-wow still from a video that shows, in living full-motion, a solar prominence erupting from the surface of our Sun. Gosh-wow stuff, I promise, and worth the download time to watch - and if I say that after waiting for it to download on my slow home connection, it's true:

Click the image to watch the 29MB video in a new window (will take a while to load).

I've said it before and I'll say it again: We live in amazing times. When I was in college studying astrophysics, the general consensus was that observatories and their instruments were reaching a sort of capability and power plateau. Then we launched the Hubble Space Telescope (happy 20th anniversary, Hubble!), and opinions changed. Then we started launching more space-based observatories. And now we're even building ground-based monsters that adapt to sky conditions, rivaling space-based capabilties.

Just wow.

PS: On a closer-to-home note, happy Earth Day!

Click the image to see NASA's Earth Day page.