Cancel what you’re doing. Grab a hot beverage, put up your feet and hit play on NASA’s eye-searing video of our moody sun and what it’s been up to for the last couple decades.
Dec. 2 is the 25th anniversary of the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a joint project from NASA and the European Space Agency. To celebrate, the agencies released a dramatic, nearly 50-minute-long video showing the sun blasting out solar material from 1998 through 2020.
The SOHO spacecraft constantly stares at the sun, recording its every whim. It’s spectacular and mesmerizing.
“What becomes clear as the sun turns and years pass and background stars whirl by, is how constant the stream of material is that is blasted in all directions — the solar wind,” ESA said in a statement on Wednesday. “This constant wind is interrupted only by huge explosions that fling bows of material at vast speeds, filling the solar system with ionized material and solar radiation.”
SOHO sports special telescopes (coronagraphs) that block out the face of the sun and capture views of coronal mass ejections. CMEs arethat can impact spacecraft, astronauts and even disrupt power grids on Earth.
NASA used the coronagraph views for the anniversary video. The occasional blasts of extreme white noise indicate when solar particles are bombarding SOHO. The fast-moving bright spots with lines radiating to the sides are photobombing planets.
SOHO’s long life has given researchers a trove of sun data to work with. “Twenty five years should just be the start,” said NASA’s Jack Ireland. “From a scientific point of view, we need to keep going. We can’t take our eyes off the sun.”