NASA Spacecraft Takes 100 Millionth Photo of the Sun

The Old Man in the Sun and other solar portraits.

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An overlaid composite image of the 100 millionth photo taken by AIA, showing the sun in multiple wavelengths. Photo: NASA/SDO.
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The 100 millionth photo taken by AIA on January 19, 2015. Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/LMSAL.
The 100 millionth photo taken by AIA on January 19, 2015. Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/LMSAL.
An overlaid composite image of the 100 millionth photo taken by AIA, showing the sun in multiple wavelengths. Photo: NASA/SDO.
An overlaid composite image of the 100 millionth photo taken by AIA, showing the sun in multiple wavelengths. Photo: NASA/SDO.
"SDO orbits Earth in such a way that its view of the sun is almost always unobstructed. But a few times a year, the moon gets in the way. This AIA image from November 22, 2014, shows the moon's disk partially blocking our view of the solar corona. If you look carefully, you can see that the edge of the moon is not a perfect circle: AIA's image quality allows you to spot lunar mountains along the edge." Photo: NASA/SDO.
"SDO orbits Earth in such a way that its view of the sun is almost always unobstructed. But a few times a year, the moon gets in the way. This AIA image from November 22, 2014, shows the moon's disk partially blocking our view of the solar corona. If you look carefully, you can see that the edge of the moon is not a perfect circle: AIA's image quality allows you to spot lunar mountains along the edge." Photo: NASA/SDO.
"NASA's project scientist for SDO likes to call this the trebuchet prominence, after the Medieval catapult that flung material during battle. This image was captured on February 24, 2011, when a moderate-sized solar flare occurred near the edge of the sun. Simultaneously, the sun blew out this gorgeous, waving mass of erupting plasma that swirled and twisted over a 90-minute period." Photo: NASA/SDO.
"NASA's project scientist for SDO likes to call this the trebuchet prominence, after the Medieval catapult that flung material during battle. This image was captured on February 24, 2011, when a moderate-sized solar flare occurred near the edge of the sun. Simultaneously, the sun blew out this gorgeous, waving mass of erupting plasma that swirled and twisted over a 90-minute period." Photo: NASA/SDO.
"Scientists process AIA images to focus in on areas of interest. This three-color image is a combination of three AIA images using a filter to increase the contrast and an inverted color table to make the small areas more visible. In this image, the dark spots represent the hotter regions." Photo: NASA/SDO/Pesnell.
"Scientists process AIA images to focus in on areas of interest. This three-color image is a combination of three AIA images using a filter to increase the contrast and an inverted color table to make the small areas more visible. In this image, the dark spots represent the hotter regions." Photo: NASA/SDO/Pesnell.
"On June 5 and 6, 2012, AIA observed a rare transit of Venus moving across its face as viewed from Earth (and SDO's) perspective. This image is a composite of many, put together to show the planet's path. . . . The next Venus transit will be December 10–11, 2117." Photo: NASA/SDO/Goddard Visualization Studio.
"On June 5 and 6, 2012, AIA observed a rare transit of Venus moving across its face as viewed from Earth (and SDO's) perspective. This image is a composite of many, put together to show the planet's path. . . . The next Venus transit will be December 10–11, 2117." Photo: NASA/SDO/Goddard Visualization Studio.
"AIA's sensitivity has enabled the discovery of a new, fast-moving type of wave that shakes the sun's corona. The image on the left, taken on May 30, 2011, shows an active region where a moderate flare lights up a ridge in the region. The image on the right shows the difference between this exposure and an earlier one, thus showing only what has changed between the two images: A wave, with alternating bright and dark lines, runs toward the upper left corner. Only AIA's rapid cadence could reveal that this type of wave can runs at speeds exceeding 1,200 miles per second." Photo: NASA/SDO.
"AIA's sensitivity has enabled the discovery of a new, fast-moving type of wave that shakes the sun's corona. The image on the left, taken on May 30, 2011, shows an active region where a moderate flare lights up a ridge in the region. The image on the right shows the difference between this exposure and an earlier one, thus showing only what has changed between the two images: A wave, with alternating bright and dark lines, runs toward the upper left corner. Only AIA's rapid cadence could reveal that this type of wave can runs at speeds exceeding 1,200 miles per second." Photo: NASA/SDO.
"The Old Man in the Sun: This image of the sun appears to look like a human face. . . . The eyes show areas of hot material, the dark line of the mouth shows cooler material, the hair around the outside illustrates material floating in the sun's atmosphere." Photo: NASA/SDO.
"The Old Man in the Sun: This image of the sun appears to look like a human face. . . . The eyes show areas of hot material, the dark line of the mouth shows cooler material, the hair around the outside illustrates material floating in the sun's atmosphere." Photo: NASA/SDO.
"Each color represents a different wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light present in the sun's corona. The wavelengths in turn correlate to material of different temperatures, resulting sometimes in completely different views of the same sun. Scientists examine the combined images to reveal the solar atmosphere in all its detail." Photo: NASA/SDO/GSFC Visualization Studio.
"Each color represents a different wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light present in the sun's corona. The wavelengths in turn correlate to material of different temperatures, resulting sometimes in completely different views of the same sun. Scientists examine the combined images to reveal the solar atmosphere in all its detail." Photo: NASA/SDO/GSFC Visualization Studio.
"On June 7, 2011, SDO captured this image as a massive eruption lifted an enormous amount of cool, dark material into the corona. Most of that material fell back onto the sun, where the gravitational energy of the fall caused it to heat up to a million degrees and more. Scientists concluded that this event on the sun was a small-scale version of what happens as stars form and collect gases via gravity." Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/LMSAL.
"On June 7, 2011, SDO captured this image as a massive eruption lifted an enormous amount of cool, dark material into the corona. Most of that material fell back onto the sun, where the gravitational energy of the fall caused it to heat up to a million degrees and more. Scientists concluded that this event on the sun was a small-scale version of what happens as stars form and collect gases via gravity." Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA/LMSAL.
"In October 2014, the largest sunspot group in 24 years was visible on the sun. In this image from October 22 a brightly glowing active region in the corona can be seen in the middle, hovering over—and shaped by—the magnetic fields of the sunspots below." Photo: NASA/SDO/LMSAL.
"In October 2014, the largest sunspot group in 24 years was visible on the sun. In this image from October 22 a brightly glowing active region in the corona can be seen in the middle, hovering over—and shaped by—the magnetic fields of the sunspots below." Photo: NASA/SDO/LMSAL.
"Solar material traces out giant magnetic fields soaring through the sun to create what's called coronal loops. Here they can be seen as white lines in a sharpened AIA image from October 24, 2014, laid over data from SDO's Helioseismic Magnetic Imager, which shows magnetic fields on the sun's surface in false color." Photo: NASA/SDO/HMI/AIA/LMSAL.
"Solar material traces out giant magnetic fields soaring through the sun to create what's called coronal loops. Here they can be seen as white lines in a sharpened AIA image from October 24, 2014, laid over data from SDO's Helioseismic Magnetic Imager, which shows magnetic fields on the sun's surface in false color." Photo: NASA/SDO/HMI/AIA/LMSAL.
"In December 2011, SDO caught images of Comet Lovejoy traveling around the sun—the first images ever captured of a comet traveling so low in the sun's atmosphere. Here, a time lapse photo show's the comet's trajectory as it moves away from the sun. The comet's evaporating gas, caught up in the sun's magnetic field can be seen moving out in different directions." Photo: NASA/SDO.
"In December 2011, SDO caught images of Comet Lovejoy traveling around the sun—the first images ever captured of a comet traveling so low in the sun's atmosphere. Here, a time lapse photo show's the comet's trajectory as it moves away from the sun. The comet's evaporating gas, caught up in the sun's magnetic field can be seen moving out in different directions." Photo: NASA/SDO.
"This mosaic of the 100 millionth image from the Advanced Imaging Assembly on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is created from previous AIA images—each tile in the mosaic is 50 pixels across." Photo: NASA/SDO/Mosaic created with AndreaMosaic.
"This mosaic of the 100 millionth image from the Advanced Imaging Assembly on NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is created from previous AIA images—each tile in the mosaic is 50 pixels across." Photo: NASA/SDO/Mosaic created with AndreaMosaic.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) took its 100 millionth image of the sun this week. In honor of the milestone, just shy of five years after the February 2010 launch, scientists on the SDO team have released a selection of their 10 favorite photos of the space craft’s solar photos.

The SDO’s four-telescope Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) takes an incredibly prolific 57,600 pictures each day, or eight photos every 12 seconds. Altogether, the SDO relays no less than 1.5 terabytes of data back to earth each day, about half of which is AIA images.

The photograph was teased on the SDO blog last week with a cryptic post full of obscure facts citing the number (e.g., “100,000,000 people lived in the USA in 1914”). The image, taken on January 19 at 12:49 pm, shows dark patches, called coronal holes, which indicate areas of less dense gas, with less solar material.

This month has already seen some spectacular NASA space photography as the organization prepares to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope: a stunning new peek at the Pillars of Creation, and an ultra-high-resolution view of the Andromeda Galaxy (see NASA’s Stunning Pillars of Creation Takes Space Photography to New Heights and See 100 Million Andromeda Galaxy Stars in the Largest Hubble Photograph Ever).

Last year, the space agency marked the fifth birthday of its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter by releasing “The Moon As Art,” a collection of the best photographs taken by the mission (see Vote for the Best Lunar Art in NASA’s “The Moon As Art”).

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