Mesmerizing NASA video captures decades of the sun’s spewing fury

This illustration shows ESA / NASA SOHO with the purpose of its study.


Cancel what you are doing. Grab a hot drink, put your feet up and hit play on NASA’s dazzling video of our moody sun and what it’s been up to for decades.

December 2 marks the 25th anniversary of the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency. To celebrate, the agencies released a dramatic video of nearly 50 minutes in which the sun blows out solar material between 1998 and 2020.

The SOHO spacecraft is constantly staring at the sun, recording every whim. It’s spectacular and enchanting.

“What becomes clear as the sun spins and years pass and background stars whirl by is how constant the flow of material is being blasted in all directions – the solar wind,” ESA said in a statement Wednesday. “This constant wind is only interrupted by massive explosions that swing arcs of material at tremendous speeds and fill the solar system with ionized material and solar radiation.”

SOHO sports special telescopes (coronagraphs) that block the sun’s face and capture images of coronal mass ejections. Are CMEs wild bursts of solar particles that can affect spacecraft, astronauts and even disrupt Earth’s electricity grids.

NASA used the coronagraph renderings for the anniversary video. Occasional bursts of extreme white noise indicate when solar particles bombard SOHO. The fast-moving bright spots with lines radiating to the sides are photobombing planets.

SOHO’s long lifespan has given researchers a wealth of solar data to work with. “Twenty-five years should be just the beginning,” said NASA’s Jack Ireland. “Scientifically, we have to keep going. We can’t take our eyes off the sun.”

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