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Watch 3 years of solar activity in a 3-minute video

April 24, 2013|By Deborah Netburn

Thanks to NASA, you can now stare at the sun for three minutes straight.

No, don't run outside and look up. Instead, check out the clip above that condenses three years of sun images into a hypnotic three-minute video that shows our closest star rotating on its axis, radiating energy and light.

The images in the video were taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, a NASA satellite that launched three years ago in 2010, with the express purpose of helping scientists better understand the sun and how its magnetic fields shift and change. 

To that end, the Solar Dynamics Observatory is constantly monitoring the sun, including snapping an image of it every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths.

The video above was created by stitching together two of those images per day over a three-year period. The images in the video were taken in the extreme ultraviolet range and represent solar material at temperatures of about 600,000 Kelvin. Each image is displayed for two frames. 

That spinning motion you see is the sun's 25-day rotation, and over the course of the video, you should be able to see solar activity grow as the sun nears the pinnacle of its 11-year solar cycle.

At the 00:30 mark and at 2:28 you can spot a partial eclipse of the sun by the moon, at 1:11 you will see the Aug. 9, 2011, X6.9 Flare, which was the largest solar flare of this solar cycle, and at 1:51 you will see the transit of Venus.

The sun does appear to subtly increase and decrease in size over the course of the video, but that's because the distance between the Solar Dynamics Observatory and the sun has changed a bit over time. 

Admittedly, the video may seem repetitive to some viewers, but if you can stick it out till the end, you are treated to a four-wavelength view, which shows how different the sun appears depending on what wavelengths you are measuring.

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