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Watch 30 Minutes of Mesmerizing, Ultra-HD Sun

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory stares at the sun so you don’t have to

smithsonian.com

Sure, you could be doing work. But why not spend half an hour watching a hypnotic, surreal visualization of the sun instead? NASA just released a high-definition visualization that shows the fiery orb in unprecedented detail.

The video comes courtesy of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a semi-autonomous spacecraft whose lenses are constantly focused on the sun. SDO’s team is obsessed with all things solar, from how the sun moves to every nuance and happening on its surface.

The craft is equipped with telescopes that detect solar wavelengths, allowing scientists to gather information about its magnetism, particles, surface, structure and more. By viewing surface changes like weather patterns and variances in the sun’s magnetic field, the SDO team hopes to eventually be able to predict how the sun will behave and how that may impact Earth.

The SDO takes snapshots every 12 seconds of 10 different UV wavelengths—which are invisible to the human eye. To create this image, scientists assigned each wavelength a color so you can see the kinds of eye-candy-like weather taking place on the sun’s surface. 

As you watch, look for explosion-like solar flares, arc-like “flux rope” loops that shoot from the sun’s surface as charged particles shoot along magnetic fields and temporary sunspots that form when the magnetic field cools down a concentrated area of the sun.

All that data may be exciting for scientists, but it also offers the rest of us a chance to marvel at our closest star. Like other similar visualizations of the dynamic sun, it can rival any human-made work of art. The video is in ultra-HD (4K)—perhaps the ultimate way to experience the formerly unseen glory of the gaseous, particle-packed center of this part of the universe. If it gives you the urge to look at even more sun visualizations, don’t look up: Instead, head to the National Air and Space Museum, where a dynamic video wall shows visualizations of the swirling sun in close to real time.

Warning: Once you start watching this video, you might never stop. But just because you can pause in your work doesn’t mean SDO will. The team’s motto is “our eye on the sun” (a mission it takes literally).

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