On Jan. 19, 2015, at 12:49 p.m. EST, an instrument on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured its 100 millionth image of the sun. The instrument is the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, or AIA, which uses four telescopes working parallel to gather eight images of the sun – cycling through 10 different wavelengths — every 12 seconds.
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. 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 on Feb. 11, 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.
In honor of the 100 millionth image, Dean Pesnell, SDO’s project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and Karel Schrijver, the AIA principal investigator at Lockheed Martin in Palo Alto, California, chose some of their favorite images produced by SDO so far.