Thursday, February 19, 2015

Five years of Solar Dynamics Observatory data...

Five years of Solar Dynamics Observatory data...  Happy birthday, SDO!  You will most definitely want to play this video back on full screen. 

When I first got interested in astronomy, back in the '60s, the Kitt Peak solar observatory was the pinnacle of solar astronomical tools.  It was hampered by all the usual problems of having an instrument under a blanket of obstructing atmosphere, plus it was completely dependent of silver halide photographic film, drastically limiting the wavelengths it could observe.  Now, 50 years later, the great solar observatories are all in space.  They have a completely unobstructed view of the sun, 24 hours a day.  They use electronic imaging sensors to observe at wavelengths stretching from HF radio all they way up to X-rays.  The difference in the quality (and quantity!) of the scientific data is almost unimaginably large.  The closest equivalent to this video that could be had in the '60s were a few grainy, noise-filled, low resolution sequences of filtered visible-light images taken a few seconds apart.  It's like the difference between daguerreotypes and a modern 4K TV image, only even more so!

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