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12 of NASA scientists' favorite images of the sun

Posted: January 25, 2015 12:48 p.m.
Updated: January 25, 2015 12:48 p.m.
Natalie Crofts/

Spectacular eruption: 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. Thus, AIA allowed us to study in detail a phenomenon that cannot be observed so closely anywhere else in the universe.

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In celebration of the 100 millionth image of the sun captured by a NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory instrument, scientists shared 12 of their all-time favorites.

The images were all captured by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument, which sends 57,600 detailed images to the observatory each day, according to NASA. It was launched on Feb. 11, 2010 and features four telescopes that cycle through 10 wavelengths to capture eight images of the sun every 12 seconds.

NASA wrote that the images “show the dance of how solar material sways and sometimes erupts in the solar atmosphere, the corona.” Many of SDO’s images have gone viral, like the sun’s so-called jack-o’-lantern face captured in October.

The images in this photo gallery were selected by SDO project scientist Dean Pesnell and AIA principal investigator Karel Schrijver.

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