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Stare straight at NASA's year-long time lapse of the sun

Brian Resnick is Vox’s science and health editor, and is the co-creator of Unexplainable, Vox's podcast about unanswered questions in science. Previously, Brian was a reporter at Vox and at National Journal.

NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) might be the space agency's most beautiful mission. Want proof? Watch this video.

(Okay, Hubble is a close second.)

The SDO is a satellite that orbits Earth and takes pictures of the sun every 12 seconds, every day (except for when the satellite is behind the Earth). The high frame rate allows NASA to study the sun's dynamic surface and gives scientists the ability to predict solar weather, which can damage our telecommunications satellites.

"We want to know where that space weather comes from," Dean Pesnell, an SDO scientist, told me in 2014. "And the only way to do that is to know what is happening with the sun's magnetic field."

In the video above, NASA physicist Nicholeen Viall walks us through a year's worth solar images, sped up in a truly epic time lapse. (If you want to feel incredibly tiny, keep in mind that 1.3 million Earths could fit inside the sun.)

The images you're seeing are shot in extreme ultraviolet, a range of light us humans can't see. Looking at the sun in this light, however, reveals the sun's hot spots of magnetic energy.

For instance, it shows how filaments of plasma actually float above the sun's surface:

And how those filaments can explode in a coronal mass ejection:

The sun is absolutely mesmerizing:


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