A telescope aboard a prolific Sun-watching NASA spacecraft has captured its mind-boggling 100 millionth image of the Sun.
The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, or AIA, on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory uses four telescopes working parallel to gather eight images of the Sun – cycling through 10 different wavelengths – every 12 seconds.
A mosaic of AIA’s 100 millionth image, captured on January 19, was created from previous AIA images – each tile in the mosaic is 50 pixels across.
All the Sun pictures used in the mosaic show extreme ultraviolet light with a wavelength of 193 Angstroms. At maximum resolution the mosaic is 15,000 pixels on a side and each tile is 50 pixels per side.
“Between the AIA and two other instruments on board, the Helioseismic Magnetic Imager and the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment, SDO sends down a whopping 1.5 terabytes of data a day. AIA is responsible for about half of that,” NASA said in a statement.
Every day it provides 57,600 detailed images of the Sun that show the dance of how solar material sways and sometimes erupts in the solar atmosphere, the corona.
In the almost five years since its launch in 2010, SDO has provided images of the Sun to help scientists better understand how the roiling corona gets to temperatures some 1000 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, what causes giant eruptions such as solar flares, and why the Sun’s magnetic fields are constantly on the move.