I love it when NASA releases images that make you look in awe at our universe, and these shots of our Sun are just that.
The images were taken by the SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) which launched on February 11, 2010 as part of it’s 5 year mission to observe our sun. The SDO is part of the LWS program (Living With a Star) that will hopefully give us a better idea of the connection between the Sun–Earth system that directly affect life and society. The SDO will also investigate how the Sun’s magnetic field is generated and structured and how this stored magnetic energy is converted and released into the heliosphere and geospace in the form of solar wind, energetic particles, and variations in the solar irradiance.
There is also a beautiful video at the bottom showing the Sun over a 24hr period that was taken on 25th September 2011.
This still SDO image was created by applying additional processing to enhance the structures visible. While there is no scientific value to this processing, it does result in a beautiful, new way of looking at the sun. The original frames are in the 171 Angstrom wavelength of extreme ultraviolet. This wavelength shows plasma in the solar atmosphere, called the corona, that is around 600,000 Kelvin. The loops represent plasma held in place by magnetic fields. They are concentrated in “active regions” where the magnetic fields are the strongest. These active regions usually appear in visible light as sunspots.
The events in this video represent 24 hours of activity on September 25, 2011.