WATCH | Sun gets starring role in Nasa video filmed over a decade

01 July 2020 - 11:21 By TimesLIVE

Stare at the sun and you risk damaging your eyes, but thanks to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) in the US you can now stare at it for a decade, and it will only take you an hour.

A timelapse video of the star at the centre of our solar system stitches together images of the sun taken every hour for the past decade, which covers an entire solar cycle.

The US space agency's solar dynamics observatory, launched in February 2010, has captured 425-million high-resolution images of the sun, totalling around 20m gigabytes of data.

Now, to the accompaniment of a composition called Solar Observer by German electronic musician Lars Leonhard, it has arranged them into a 61-minute video showing events that  include transiting planets and eruptions.

During a solar cycle, which takes around 11 years, the sun’s north and south poles swop positions and sunspots emerge.

Each second of the video contains a day's worth of images, and the last frame shows the sun on June 1 2020.

The solar observatory has three instruments that capture images at different wavelengths of light, but the video relies on only one wavelength which allows the corona - the sun’s golden outermost atmospheric layer – to be visible.

Explaining why the video contained blank frames, Nasa said: “While the observatory has kept an unblinking eye pointed toward the sun, there have been a few moments it missed.

“The dark frames in the video are caused by Earth or the moon eclipsing the observatory as they pass between the spacecraft and the sun.”

A “longer blackout” in 2016 was caused by a technical problem that took a week to fix.

“The images where the sun is off-centre were observed when the observatory was calibrating its instruments,” said Nasa.

The observatory will continue observing the sun for another decade.